Barenaked Ladies (with Boothby Graffoe) At O2 Institute Birmingham – April 2018

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25 Apr 18

This Monday I took what has become an annual trip to see one of my favourite live bands in the world, ‘Barenaked Ladies’, as they returned to Birmingham’s O2 Institute for their wonderfully titled ‘Fake Nudes’ tour.

As regular visitors to the site probably already know, I’m a massive fan of the Canadian band and have been since around 1992 when they released their first album ‘Gordon’. I’ve seen them multiple times over the years, and they always manage to impress. It’s also great to meet up with the UK community of BNL supporters, who are such a lovely bunch of people, all brought together via social media by their collective love of the group and their music. As has been the case for the last few years, the band have been offering VIP passes to their gigs. This not only gets you priority entrance to the concert, but also lets you go and listen to the soundcheck, gets you a goodie bag of exclusive merchandise, and a chance to meet the group in person.

The Sound Check / Meet & Greet

I wandered down to the venue around 3.30pm to meet up with a number of fellow BNL fans, many of whom are members of the BNL UK Fans facebook group, which is a great online community of like-minded BNL souls. After some chatting about previous times we’d seen the group – a number of the really hardcore fans had been to multiple gigs on this tour already – we were taken into the O2 Institute to see the sound check.

After a bit more chatting whilst the crew set things up, Tyler Stewart, Jim Creeggan, Kevin Hearn & Ed Robertson headed out on stage to play through a few tracks and taking requests from the gathered VIP fans. One request was for ‘Another Postcard’ which lead to some discussion amongst the band about how they don’t play the song enough and they should open with it. They also took a request for ‘Pollywog In A Bog’, one of the tracks from their brilliant children’s album ‘Snacktime’.

The soundcheck was the first time we go to see how things would be set up for the later gig in the evening, which includes Tyler on the world’s smallest drum kit. I was initially concerned they’d cloned a mini-me version of Ty, which is an awesome, if slightly terrifying prospect! After they’d done playing, the guys came down from the stage for a chat and to sign and take photos. I commented to Jim it seems a little unfair on Ty to have a small kit when the rest of the band are using full-size instruments. Ty really should have insisted on Kev using a mini-keyboard and the guitars being replaced by ukeleles. 😉 The band had actually arrived in Birmingham a day early, so had managed to take a bit of time exploring the town. Ed, who is often seen frequenting Birmingham’s comic book shops, actually skipped his usual trip this time as he found ‘Tilt‘, a local establishment which serves craft beer, speciality coffee and, the thing that really drew in Ed… Pinball. As most of the fans know, the band, and Ed especially are massive Pinball fans.

The time seemed to fly by, but the whole soundcheck was around 1.5hrs in total, so well worth spending the money if you’re a fan and can afford it. Once everyone had their things signed and photos taken, we headed back outside to grab some food and wait for the evening gig.

The Gig

After filling up with food with some fellow fans at Birmingham’s Bullring we headed back down to the venue and joined the gaggle of people waiting for the doors to open. Thanks to the VIP pass, we were let in first which meant we could get a prime spot right at the front of the stage. After some waiting around and chatting with other fans (including uber-fan Micheal, who had flown in from Germany just for the gig!) the lights dimmed, and out stepped support act Boothby Graffoe.

Boothby has supported BNL a number of times before and is always a delight to watch. It’s a wonderful mix of comedy and great music, starting off with some banter and solo tracks before being joined by Kevin and then Jim. It’s always great to see the guys having fun on stage with Boothby and after some energetic crowd participation, it was time for them to head off stage as we waited for BNL to appear.

The lights dimmed once again and out stepped Ed, Jim, Ty and Kevin. In keeping with the soundcheck conversation earlier, they did indeed kick off the show with ‘Another Postcard’. They started the show with an interesting line up of all 4 band members at the front of the stage with Ty looking like a giant on his adorable mini-drum kit. Next track was an old classic ‘Blame It On Me’, before moving on to ‘Sunshine’, a track from their latest album ‘Fake Nudes’. It was around this time we got the traditional BNL song made up on the spot. This one was mainly Ed talking about what he did on his day off in Birmingham and references to the fact the venue was very hot and Ed was sweating a lot! Following that Kev took over vocals on the folksy acoustic new track ‘The Township of King’. One of the things I love about the band since their split with Steven Page is how we seem to get a lot more tracks with lead vocals from Kev and Jim. They close out the opening “set” with two more classic tracks, ‘Alternative Girlfriend’ from ‘Maybe You Should Drive’ and ‘Enid’ from ‘Gordon’.

We then got a short break whilst the crew rearranged the stage into a more traditional set-up, with Ty back behind his big boy drum kit and Kev surrounded by keyboards with Ed and Jim upfront as they launch into ‘Brian Wilson’ followed by ‘Odds Are’. The rest of the gig included a mix of new and old, particular highlights for me being ‘Bringing It Home’ and ‘Canada Dry’ from the new album and, of course, Boothby joining them on stage for a rendition of ‘Be My Yoko Ono’. As we head toward the end of the gig and the ‘Million Dollars’ finale, Tyler is unshackled from the drum kit to take lead vocals on the encore whilst Ed takes over the drum. I won’t spoil Ty’s song choices, but they were suitably epic covers!

As ever, an amazing day out and an astounding performance from one of the best live bands on the planet. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably seen them by now, but even if you’re not and just love live music, go. Get tickets. You will not be disappointed!