BWW Reviews: Page, Stace Prove Cynicism Can Be Funny in Newark Stop
Folk singer/pop singer songwriter Wesley Stace couldn't help feeling nostalgic about sharing the stage with the Steven Page trio Oct. 12 at the Thirty-One West (located at 31 Church Street in downtown Newark, Ohio).
One of the first times the two performed on the same bill near Columbus was in 1992 when Page was one of the front men for Barenaked Ladies in their inaugural U.S. tour and Stace was playing under the name of John Wesley Harding.
It seems only fitting that Page would call on Stace to open for him on his first large scale tour of the United States in seven years. The Oct. 12 show was a great reminder of how powerful these two acts can be.
Page, the distinctive tenor voice of the BNL gems "Brian Wilson" and "Call and Answer," offered the audience a split of his impressive solo catalogue and his contributions to the Canadian band. Backed by guitarist Craig Northey and cellist Kevin Fox, Page mined the usually upbeat and quirky Barenaked Ladies song book and brought forth a brooding song list. His selections included "Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel" (a song about a car accident)," "The War on Drugs," (a song about drug addiction and suicide) and "I Live with it Every Day" (a song in which the main character wounds his neighbor with a BB gun). Fox's cello added an extra layer of melancholia to the mix.
"People out there are saying 'I see what you are doing,'" Page said with a sneer. "You went through all those colorful albums and found the darkest ones."
One might think that the concert would be about as uplifting as a Morrissey poetry recital. The truth of the matter is Page is such a gifted performer that he infuses bleak subjects with cheerful ballads such as "Land Ho," and "It's All Been Done" and comic banter that BNL was known for in their prime.
One of the highpoints of his 19-song set was a medley of songs using the same guitar chords, including the Temptations' "My Girl," David Bowie's "Jean Genie," The Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and "Dancing in the Streets."
At the end of the song, Page talked about cranking up the David Bowie/Mick Jagger version of the latter song for his kids and telling them after the "Soooooooouth Ameeeeerica" line, "Kids, that's why you don't do cocaine."
After 30 years as a performer, Page has the timing of a stand-up comedian. During a lull between songs, someone in the audience shouted, "You're so much better than Ed," referring to Ed Robertson, who co-founded the Barenaked Ladies with Page. Without missing a beat, Page put both hands on his hips and answered in a whiney teenager's voice, "It's not a competition, Mom!"
Before launching into "I Can See My House from Here," Page went into a shaggy dog story about seeing Jesus standing beside him in a bathroom mirror. "Jesus said, 'I didn't mean to scare you but I just wanted to say I love your stuff," Page said. "I said 'I love your stuff, too' which is weird because I'm a Jew. Jesus said, 'That's cool. I'm Jewish too."
When Page confessed he hadn't read all of the New Testament, he said, "Jesus replied, 'To be honest, I haven't read the whole thing myself. It's embarrassing what other people write about you.' I said, 'I know. I couldn't read twitter for like two weeks after I left BNL.' Jesus said, 'No, that's not the same thing ... at all.'"
Page wasn't the only one with a solid sense of humor. Stace got the crowd pumped and primed with a way-too-short six song set with a third of it coming from the Why We Fight CD, which he was promoting when he toured with BNL in 1992.
"People would always shout out, 'Play the song, 'The Truth," Stace said before launching into the song. "I'd answer, 'You want 'The Truth? You can't handle the truth.'"
Stace, who wrote most of the Why We Fight CD during the LA riots, showed the audiences he still wields a wicked poison pen. He opened his set with "Making Love to Bob Dylan," and closed it with his yet-to-be-released single, "My Least Favorite Things." The latter tune was a bitter revamping of the Julie Andrews classic, "My Favorite Things," from THE SOUND OF MUSIC: "Man buns on hipsters with civil war beardos, lame band jams and country music weirdos, tattoos all over with silver nose rings, these are a few of my least favorite things."
While Stace and Page may not be divine, their second coming is certain worth a second look. Twenty six years is way too long to wait for these two to tour together.