• Leeds Student Television

A lesson in how to tour from Barenaked Ladies

Words by Holly Gittins


It’s truly a tale of touring during COVID times. Members of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, winners of multiple Juno awards, and two-time Grammy nominated, the Barenaked Ladies are true icons of the music industry. Their UK tour, originally scheduled for 2020 was (you guessed it) postponed two times, before finally beginning in March 2022. Then, on Wednesday 23rd, Kevin and Jim can no longer perform due to an ‘illness’ (which may or may not rhyme with ‘Schmovid’, according to Ed). The decision they faced can’t have been easy - cancel the shows after two years of wait, or keep going as a two-piece.


I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about how the show would be when I found out only half of them were due to perform - thankfully, I was proved very, very wrong. Ed and Tyler pulled off the most incredible, intimate show at Leeds Beckett.


Firstly, though, it wouldn’t be a Barenaked Ladies show without a warmup from tour regular Boothby Graffoe. Completely bizarre and completely hilarious, Boothby’s one liners, satirical songs, and classic call and response ‘Hartlepool’ had the whole audience laughing (and yelling lyrics at ridiculous speeds). The newest addition to the set - a rewriting of Tom Lehrer’s ‘The Elements’ - was a highlight; only Boothby Graffoe would spend three minutes setting up one punchline, and it was totally worth it.



I’ve now been lucky enough to see five Barenaked Ladies concerts, and whilst Jim and Kevin’s absence was noted, it certainly didn't detract from the show. Considering this show may never happen again, I feel very privileged to have seen one of only three fully acoustic, ‘half-naked’ shows.


The show kicked off with ‘New Disaster’, a track off of their newest album, 2021’s Detour de Force. It’s one of the best new Barenaked Ladies tracks in years, and was the perfect upbeat opener to the show. In fact, all four songs played from their new album were incredible live, especially ‘Live Well’, which is clearly a very personal song for Ed, and I’m sure for many others, the emotion of which could be felt throughout the performance.


From their newest album to their oldest, ‘Blame it on Me’ was the perfect song for this two piece. The absence of other instruments really highlighted the subtlety of this song and allowed the guitar riff - perhaps the star of this song - to shine through. The same can be said for the following song, Toe to Toe. A new addition for the two-piece shows, it was perfectly picked by the band, working well on just drums and guitar. Only a band with as much experience would have been able to put together such a well thought out setlist in such limited time.


There were also some wonderfully unique moments from this concert - from Ed singing the bassline to Brian Wilson, to the audience chaotically trying (and failing) to sing the response part of If I had a Million Dollars.


Despite not being what I expected, it ended up being an unforgettable night, and one of the best concerts I have ever seen. It’s a true testament to the strength of the Barenaked Ladies’ fanbase, and why I keep coming back to see them; everyone showed up, sang along, and supported Ed and Tyler as they performed a wonderful show in extraordinary circumstances.


Photo Credit: Matt Barnes