Barenaked Ladies returns to Zoo Amphitheatre on July 6Written by Jeff McGinnis | | email@example.com
As the bass player for Barenaked Ladies, Jim Creeggan has played to a wide variety of audiences in cities around the globe. But he remembers playing for one unique audience member in particular during the band’s last appearance at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre.
“I have fond memories of entertaining the tiger,” Creeggan said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “I don’t know how the animal could stand our music, but I’m sure it’s nothing like he appears to get at home.”
Whether the big cats are ready or not, Barenaked Ladies will return to the Zoo Amphitheater on July 6, for a show that also features Blues Traveler, Big Head Todd & the Monsters and Cracker on the bill — a stop on the optimistically named “Last Summer on Earth” tour.
For Barenaked Ladies (BNL), the latest tour comes after more than 22 years as a group. Creeggan remembers the early days as a bit of an uphill battle.
“When we started, our kind of music was really, really scarce. It was hard for anybody to do anything without having the support of a record company — a traditional record deal. And we came out with a tape that did really, really well, and it sort of sparked a little movement — in the independent scene in Canada in 1991.”
One thing that has remained fairly consistent in the ensuing two decades is the band’s alternative, playful sound — a style that came early in BNL’s existence, as the members struggled to form a group identity Creeggan said.
“The sound of the music was acoustic — we weren’t really a garage band or a basement band, we were a living room band. We didn’t even have a full drum kit at the beginning. My brother played congas, and I played the double bass — I still do, something that’s held through,” he noted.
Creeggan credited drummer Tyler Stewart with solidifying much of what became BNL, noting he gave the group a bigger sound “one drum at a time. Just kinda slowly, each gig. When we first met him, we invited him onstage and said, ‘Just bring a snare drum.’ And the next gig, he’d bring a snare drum and a highhat. ‘Is this okay, guys?’ ‘Yeah, sure.’ Eventually, after like 12 gigs, he had a full drum set.”
Throughout a history which has seen such hits as “If I Had a $1,000,000,” “One Week,” “Pinch Me” and others, BNL’s fun and playful tone has always stood somewhat counter to mainstream pop music culture.
“It’s not necessarily on purpose,” Creeggan said. “I think each member brings their own influence to the band. We follow our own interests, and whatever comes out at the end, after the four-member washing machine gets to it. I think it is reactions [to modern music], but I think we also try to be ourselves.”
Barenaked Ladies’ members have also had a major readjustment to deal with in recent years, as founding member and lead singer Steven Page left in 2009. But Creeggan said that the remaining four members of the group have taken the opportunity to grow as collaborators as a result.
“I think in some ways, when Steve was in the band, Ed [Robertson, BNL co-founder] and Steve wrote a lot of the material, so that was the bulk of where we’re at, writing-wise. And I think that now it’s even more collaborative. While that was going on, Kevin Hearn and I were writing our side projects. So our material would get overflown into other projects, and now we’re bringing that into the group.”
Among the current projects the band is working on is a score for the highly anticipated Broadway musical version of the classic comedy “National Lampoon’s Animal House.” The band will work with director Casey Nicholaw, who also directed the wildly successful comedy “The Book of Mormon.” Creeggan cites the show as a great opportunity to show the band’s skills in a completely new medium.
“It’s a blast. I love working with Casey Nicholaw — it’s really clear why ‘The Book of Mormon’ is so awesome,” Creeggan said. “In some ways, he’s the best producer we’ve ever had, and it’s not a record. He’s really, really great at getting everybody at their best and encouraging everybody to come up with anything that comes to mind, you know? He really is a great collaborator.”
The band is also at work on a new album, Creeggan noted. But for now, BNL’s focus remains on the “Last Summer on Earth” and their return to the Zoo Amphitheatre.
“Tell the tigers that we’re coming back,” Creeggan joked. “I don’t know how you communicate with them — that’s a Toledo thing; I’ll leave that up to you.”