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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 10:45 pm | Partly Cloudy 52º


Paul Mann: Barenaked Ladies Headlines Night of Feel-Good Music at the Bowl

Canadian pop group is joined by Boothby Graffoe, Guster and Ben Folds Five for a marathon concert

While many concertgoers were still enjoying the festivities at the Summer Solstice Celebration downtown, a marathon concert had already begun at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday evening.

The concert, headlined by veteran Canadian pop group the Barenaked Ladies, featured three opening acts, all of which BNL has collaborated with in the past.

Boothby Graffoe, a veteran English comedian, singer and songwriter, opened the show. While few people had found their seats by the opening performance, those lucky few in attendance were treated to a hilarious and fascinating set.

The feisty Englishman with big, expressive eyes played sarcastic songs from his new album, Songs for Dogs’ Funerals. His silly, twisted lyrics and polished comic timing actually veiled his immense musical talent as a singer, guitarist and songwriter.

A special surprise greeted the concert early-birds, when three of the four Barenaked Ladies joined Graffoe, one by one as the set progressed. Playing myriad acoustic instruments, Graffoe led the eventual quartet in a spirited, fun-filled set.

Fans of the three main acts appearing at the Bowl on Saturday describe themselves as geeky pop-music lovers, a genre full of upbeat pop beats with an emphasis on harmonies, much like the Beatles era.

By the time Guster began their 40-minute set, more than half of the crowd still had not found their way to their seats. But those Guster fans who were there were probably the most vociferous and enthusiastic concertgoers of the evening.

The Boston band, formed in 1991, is also known for their onstage antics and humorous deliveries. But their musical pedigree is impressive, with band members changing instruments during nearly every song. The ambidextrous musicians seemed to be able to switch instruments without missing a beat. The band, faced with a short set window, played at a ferocious pace, cramming as many songs in as they could.

As the sun began to set on the longest day of the year, Ben Folds Five took the stage for a spirited hour-long set.

Ben Folds Five is actually a trio led by master piano player, singer and songwriter Ben Folds. Back with his original band, the group also features bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee. While Ben Folds Five plays music with happy-go-lucky lyrics like others in the genre, their music is a unique mix of elements of classical, jazz and rock that features the animated Ben Folds performing much like a geeky version of Elton John. Ben Folds Five also played at a furious pace during their hour-long set, cramming in as many songs as they could.

By the time Barenaked Ladies took the stage for their 90-minute finale, the skies had darkened and their LED light show burst to life behind the veteran quartet. The Canadian phenomenon have been a band since 1988 and have sold more than 15 million records worldwide.

The band, known for their masterful harmonies (a la The Beatles), played songs off of their latest album, Grinning Steak, as well as their biggest hit songs, including “Brian Wilson,” “If I Had a Million Dollars” and “One Week.” The band had much of the audience dancing thorough their set.

Graffoe made an hilarious appearance as a guest singer, for those who had missed his earlier set, prancing about the stage like a lost deer on a city street. During their encore, the band played their signature medley, which features current dance hits mixed with iconic rock classics. That was followed by another huge hit for the band, “The Old Apartment.”

As the 10 p.m. curfew arrived at the Bowl, the band finished up a marathon four hours of one of the most musically pleasing nights of the Bowl so far this season.

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.

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