For the latest edition of Last Summer on Earth, the Barenaked Ladies’ annual summer package tour, the group won’t have a new studio album to promote.
They will have a new release, though, a concert DVD/CD called “BNL Rocks Red Rocks,” recorded on the 2015 Last Summer on Earth tour at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver.
The release of “BNL Rocks Red Rocks” helped the popular Canadian band realize some significant changes were in order for their live show on this year’s Last Summer on Earth tour.
“We’re very aware that we’re putting out a (DVD/CD) that’s very indicative of the vibe of the last tour,” singer/guitarist Ed Robertson said in a recent phone interview. “So this time around, we really want to change up the show, play a bunch of songs we haven’t been playing in a while. We’re actually going to start the night with an acoustic set, which we haven’t ever done. So we’re going to ... play three or four songs in a stripped down setting before we go full-on rock show.”
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The acoustic set won’t be the only thing different about this year’s tour, which arrives at the Thunder Valley Casino on Saturday, July 23. The support acts represent a major contrast from last year’s tour, which featured the Violent Femmes and Colin Hay of Men At Work fame as the openers.
This year, two acts that made their name during the synth-pop heyday of the 1980s – OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) and Howard Jones – will open for Barenaked Ladies.
While Robertson agreed that OMD and Jones will put a stamp on the evening both in terms of musical style and era, he said both acts met the main criteria for choosing support acts for Last Summer on Earth.
“It’s about hit songs,” Robertson said. “These are artists that had multiple radio hits, and in the case of OMD, big songs in big movies. They represent a certain time period for so many people, but they continue to work and continue to make music. That’s important to us. It’s not about strictly nostalgia. These bands had massive hits in their day, but they’re still making music and still out there rocking.”
The same might be said of Barenaked Ladies. The group, which formed in 1988 in Toronto, 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 “Maroon” (2001) and “Everything To Everyone” (2004).
But then came a challenging period. In July 2008, singer/guitarist Steven Page was arrested on cocaine charges. The band supported Page through his travails and his charges were later reduced to a misdemeanor and then dropped in April 2009 after he fulfilled conditions of his plea agreement.
Page, though, ended up splitting from the band – leaving Robertson, who had shared most of the songwriting duties with Page, as the primary songwriter. The group, which also includes bassist Jim Creeggan, keyboardist/guitarist Kevin Hearn and drummer Tyler Stewart, also has seen Hearn go through two separate bouts with cancer, which is now in remission.
As a four-piece act, the band has released three solid studio albums – “All In Good Time” (2010), “Grinning Streak” (2013) and “Silverball” (2015). The latter album was made right before Hearn began cancer treatment.
Following up “Silverball” with a live release was actually not on the Barenaked Ladies’ agenda when plans were made for last year’s tour. But that changed with some help from AXS Television., owned in part by Ryan Seacrest and CBS.
“We had AXS Television come to us and say, ‘Hey, we want to do a special with you guys,’ ” Robertson said. “It all just kind of fell into place.”
After finishing this year’s tour and a September run through the United Kingdom, Robertson said the group members may turn their attention to a new studio album.
“I started writing about a month ago,” he said. “I got four songs done, and another 22 started. So I’m off to a wicked start. We’ll probably do some recording in the fall.”
What: The band appears with Howard Jones and OMD on the Last Summer on Earth tour
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, July 23
Where: Thunder Valley Casino (1200 Athens Ave., Lincoln)