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"Barenaked Ladies"....12/17/ San Francisco

."..........BNL at the Warfield in San Francisco

.......Since 1988, the Toronto five have surreptitiously established themselves as full-blown pop stars, both in their homeland and here in the States. Buoyed by such infectious hit singles as the faux hip-hop "One Week" and the playfully cynical "It's All Been Done," their fifth and most recent full-length disc, "Stunt," has chalked up over 4 million sales since its July 1998 release. The all-male Ladies (guitarist/vocalists Steven Page and Ed Robertson, bassist Jim Creeggan, drummer Tyler Stewart and keyboardist Kevin Hearn) proudly wear their irreverence prominently on their collective sleeve. Mixing acerbic lyrics with music that borrows heavily from both British Invasions (The Beatles and Squeeze-led ones), solemn and self-important these guys just aren't. For some reason humor always has been a rare and often derided entity in rock, a phenomenon that mystifies Stewart. Though the Ladies refuse to imbue their work with any more seriousness than is absolutely necessary, their happy-go-lucky melodies aren't always full of bright sentiments. From oldies such as the stalker's lament, "The Old Apartment," to the new record's peppy suicide note, "I'll Be That Girl," a surprising amount of their material finds this lighthearted bunch showing off a fairly dark underbelly. In concert, however, it's just party time. No brooding. No angst-ridden, I-hate-myself-and-I-want to-die posturing for a paycheck. The Barenaked live experience is much more "Evening at the Improv" than it is earnest Rock Show. Their working philosophy seems to be something along the lines of (sorry, Cyndi Lauper) "Ladies Just Want to Have Fun."

........The hit-making quintet, which drew a sold-out crowd in San Francisco to play at the Warfield for a local radio station 97.3 "Alice in Winterland" benefit show. Though singers Steven Page and Ed Robertson wear crewcuts, hipster sideburns and tiny spectacles instead of sprayed-down Wayne Newton hairdos, their shtick is the same. They crack jokes, tell stream-of-consciousness stories, "conduct" the crowd's applause and jam Cher's "Believe," the Offspring's "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" and Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life" (by way of "Annie") into one fast-paced medley. At the core, they're not nasty, they're sentimental. Page did a Pete Townshend leap off the drum riser during the opening "It's All Been Done," and Robertson invited a young fan to strum his electric guitar during a full-band rendition of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me." But they calm down for the polished adult-contemporary ballads, like "Call and Answer" and "The Old Apartment." It's all safe and, for the most part, entertaining. Where the Ladies made a point of not taking themselves seriously--Robertson jokingly referred to the "has-been one-hit wonders Barenaked Ladies"--" Do They Know It's Christmas?" ranks just a few notches below "We Are the WorlD." Yet Canadian funnymen Barenaked Ladies, without so much as a wink or a sneer, closed their San Francisco show with it Friday night. It was a revealing choice for the hit-making quintet, which drew a sold-out crowd to the "Alice in Winterland" benefit.
........Singer Dido's band opened the show with a mixture of spooky trip-hop rhythms and an expressive, folky voice--especially strong on "Here With Me," the opening theme for the TV show "Roswell."
......But my highlight was Joan Osborne. She hasn't been around for a while and it was great listening to her beautiful voice again .Playing all her favorite songs even " God is Great " and really looking beautiful as ever.

By Randy Cohen

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