Review: LAST SUMMER ON EARTH at Kemba Live! Amphitheater

BNL, Semisonic and Del Amitri get the summer tour off to a raucous start.

By: Jun. 03, 2023
Review: LAST SUMMER ON EARTH at Kemba Live! Amphitheater

Pub pizza. Year-old fireworks. A box of chocolates. A Barenaked Ladies concert setlist.

You just never know what you are going to get with some things. But with the latter on that list, the results are usually amusing, acoustically pleasing, and extremely entertaining.

Such was the case when the Canadian quartet of Ed Robertson, Jim Creeggan, Tyler Stewart, and Kevin Hearn rolled into Columbus for the start of the “Last Summer on Earth” tour June 2 at the Kemba Live Amphitheater. How many bands would have the audacity to sandwich their own hits around songs by Taylor Swift, One Direction, Gordon Lightfoot, Def Leppard and with a pair of songs from THE SOUND OF MUSIC?

Yet, when the Barenaked Ladies do it, somehow it all makes perfect sense. Moments after doing its 1998 hit, “It’s All Been Done,” Robertson weaved the audience through a raucous version of Swift’s “Shake It Off.”

“Who knew there would be so many Swifties at a Barenaked Ladies concert?” Robertson mused. “Do you know what the difference is between a Taylor Swift concert and a BNL concert? You can get tickets for a Barenaked Ladies Concert.”

The Barenaked Ladies are a difficult band to pigeonhole. Since beginning in 1988, they have become known for their quirky novelty songs like “If I Had A Million Dollars,” “Be My Yoko Ono,” and the theme to THE BIG BANG THEORY. At the same time, they also have spun their fair share of dark twisted tales of abuse (“The Flag”), drugs (“War on Drugs”) and suicide (“When I Fall”). However, much of the morose selections of the BNL catalog were composed by former member Steven Page, who shared front man duties with Robertson until 2009.

Many of those heavier songs were absent from the band’s 20-plus song repertoire. This summer was about fluffy fan favorites (“One Week,” “Pinch Me,” “Brian Wilson”) and the moderately successful tunes from the post-Page era (“Gonna Walk,” “Odds Are,” and the show-opening “Matter of Time”) sprinkled in with new songs.  

“Everywhere we go, people always ask us to play more new music,” Robertson said, tongue in cheek as he introduced the Columbus crowd to his new song “Loving Life.”

The front man was more than willing to share the mike with bassist Creeggan, who provided the catchy, “Just Wait” and with keyboardist Hearn (“Haven’t Got Enough Time”).

However, it was Stewart who rattled and rocked the Last Summer On Earth opener. After a medley that started with “If You Could Read My Mind,” by the late Gordon Lightfoot, and segued into “Climb Every Mountain” and “So Long, Farewell,” from THE SOUND OF MUSIC, Stewart surrendered his drum kit to Robertson and preened and strutted his way through “Rock of Ages.”

The band returned for an encore performance of “The Old Apartment” for the final tune of the evening.

OPENING ACTS: One of the key ingredients for the last six “Last Summer on Earth” tours have been the choices for opening acts. In the past seven years, Guster, The Violent Femmes, the Ben Folds Five, and Colin Hay (Men at Work) have all taken the stage before BNL.

The June 2 openers Del Amitri and Semisonic continued that legacy.

The Scottish quartet, Del Amitri, reintroduced themselves to the American audience. As soon as Justin Currie launched into “Always the Last to Know,” it was if the crowd snapped their fingers in recognition with “Oh, it’s these guys.” The crowd was clearly in tune with the band by the time the four reached “Roll to Me.”

Minnesota trio Semisonic, which turned Roman philosopher Seneca’s quote, “Every new beginning comes from some other’s beginning’s end” into a fist pumping anthem on “Closing Time,” then took over the stage.

Dan Wilson (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), John Munson (bass, keyboards, backing vocals, guitar), and Jacob Slichter (drums, percussion, keyboards, backing vocals) wowed the crowd with its other hit, “Chemistry” and its run at Outkast’s “Hey Ya” before finishing its nine-song set with “Closing Time.”

In 2012, the year the Mayans predicted the world would end, the Barenaked Ladies launched their first of seven Last Summer on Earth tours. If this indeed is “The Last Summer on Earth,” the Barenaked Ladies and company got it off to an amazing start.


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