My enduring love affair with Barenaked Ladies

08/01/2014 7:26 AM

08/01/2014 11:05 PM

I’m forever indebted to my college roommate Jill for introducing me to a group of men named Ladies more than 20 years ago. It’s been a long-lasting love affair, and I can’t imagine my life without them.

It was Jill who invited me to go with her to a concert in our school’s cafeteria at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., in the early 1990s. I had never heard of Barenaked Ladies, a band with a funny name from nearby Toronto, Ontario, but if Jill said they were good, I believed her. She was way cooler than I and knew all the things every college student in the ’90s should know. When Jill said we needed to go to the corner store before the show to pick up some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, I didn’t question her. She had her reasons.

The concert was amazing, and I was hooked. I had never seen performers have so much fun. The band came out on stage riding around on little dirt bikes. They loved what they were doing, and it was infectious. Their harmonies, musicianship and on-stage improvisational antics were unlike anything I had seen before. I didn’t know the songs, and it didn’t matter. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Near the end of the show, I learned why Jill had brought the mac and cheese when “If I Had a Million Dollars” was played. Everyone tossed the elbow pasta in the air as the Ladies crooned about their love for Kraft dinners.

I quickly became the biggest BNL fan and played their first CD, “Gordon,” over and over again. I subscribed to their fan newsletter “The Ladies Room” and would squeal in delight when I pulled it out of my mailbox every few months and got caught up on what my Ladies were up to. I was always first in line to buy their subsequent CDs. Their most popular hits over the years have been “If I Had a Million Dollars,” “One Week” and “The Old Apartment.” They also perform the theme to the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

Something about their music speaks to me. The lyrics are witty, nerdy, Canadian (it’s where I learned that they refer to ninth grade as grade 9), thoughtful, sweet and real. I love their instrumentation: banjos, accordions, flutes, bongos and much more. The harmonies are amazing.

Throughout the years, I’ve seen the Ladies all over the country: Chattanooga, Tenn.; Chicago; Atlanta; Las Vegas;and Rochester, N.Y. They never disappoint. Wichita has been a BNL concert-free zone for far too long. When I found out they were coming to the Orpheum, I squealed like it was 1993.

The band has changed since the 2009 departure of Steven Page, one of the two lead singers and songwriters. The absence of his big voice and songwriting skills are most evident in the group’s latest album, “Grinning Streak,” but it’s not as noticeable in the live shows. I saw the group in Las Vegas in 2012, and I’m happy to report that it is still great live and has the same energy and excitement. The other Ladies have stepped up their game in concert and filled in on the harmonies where Page’s voice once was. Keyboardist Kevin Hearn plays just about every instrument he can get his hands on.

Listening to the Ladies is like snuggling up with my favorite blanket – it feels like home. The first time I heard anyone other than Barenaked Ladies perform one of their songs was when my husband, Carter Green, performed “Be My Yoko Ono” the first night I met him in 2006. I knew then and there that it was true love.

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