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Barenaked Ladies stay focused on the positive 

click to enlarge Barenaked Ladies are promising an acoustic set plus brand new songs on their 'Last Summer on Earth Tour.' - EMILIO ROBERTS
  • Emilio Roberts
  • Barenaked Ladies are promising an acoustic set plus brand new songs on their 'Last Summer on Earth Tour.'

In the nearly two decades since Barenaked Ladies hit No. 1 on the American charts with their semi-rapped single "One Week," the Ontario pop-rock band still has shown a knack for finding its way into the Canadian Top 10 while continuing to headline good-sized venues here in the States. And while their current dates don't have a new studio album to support, the group is still riding high on the success of last year's BNL Rocks Red Rocks live album.

But singer-guitarist Ed Robertson and his bandmates are also aware that they have to change things up from tour to tour. "We're going to start the night with an acoustic set, which we haven't ever done," he says. "We're going to be right at the front of the stage, and play three or four songs in a stripped-down setting, before we go full-on rock show."

The group has also come up with a set list featuring songs they haven't often played live, and will also be showcasing brand-new songs, as well. "We're learning new songs every day at sound check," says Robertson. "So every show that we play will be slightly different."

Barenaked Ladies certainly have a deep enough catalog to draw upon. Formed in 1988 in Toronto, the group enjoyed major popularity with a string of three hit albums — 1998's Stunt (which included the hits "One Week" and "It's All Been Done"), followed by 2001's Maroon and 2004's Everything to Everyone.

But then came a challenging period. In 2008, co-founder Steven Page — with whom Robertson first became friends as a teenager after a Peter Gabriel concert — was arrested on cocaine charges. The band supported Page through his travails, and his charges were later reduced to a misdemeanor before being dropped entirely.

Page, though, ended up splitting from the band, leaving Robertson, who had always shared most of the songwriting duties with him, as the primary songwriter. The group, which includes bassist Jim Creeggan, keyboardist/guitarist Kevin Hearn and drummer Tyler Stewart, soldiered on as a four-piece, releasing three solid studio albums — All In Good Time, Grinning Streak and, most recently, 2015's Silverball, which was made while Hearn was beginning treatment for his second battle with cancer.

"It was very scary, it was a very anxious time for all of us," says Robertson. "The band just kind of rallied around Kevin and said 'Look, what do you need? Do we delay this record? Do we head in and get as much recorded as we can? What do you need? How do we help you?'"

But Hearn wanted to stay the course. "Kev said, 'If we don't start working, I'm going to be sitting around the house just worrying until I go for this treatment.'" The musician now has a clean bill of health and is back on the road with the band.

After finishing the current spring tour of the States, Robertson says the group will turn their attention to a new studio album. He found some time to start writing before the 2016 Last Summer on Earth Tour, and he's pleased with his progress.

"I got four songs done, and another 22 started," he says. "So I'm off to a wicked start."

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