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Photos: Barenaked Ladies, Better Than Ezra & KT Tunstall – The Last Summer On Earth 2018 Tour

Grant Walters Grant Walters Photos: Barenaked Ladies, Better Than Ezra & KT Tunstall – The Last Summer On Earth 2018 TourPhotos by Matt Ellis.
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From start to finish, the Columbus stop on The Last Summer On Earth 2018 Tour Wednesday at Express LIVE! was a raucous school bus on its way to field day, and its drivers — the Barenaked Ladies, Better Than Ezra, and KT Tunstall — each joyfully took a turn at the wheel.

Shortly after 7 p.m., Tunstall kicked off her (all too) short set with “It Took Me So Long To Get Here, But Here I Am,” one of the singles from her most recent studio album, KIN, before revisiting her 2004 debut, Eye To The Telescope, with a beautiful rendition of the ballad “Other Side Of The World.” As usual, she masterfully employed her loop track setup throughout the show, which gave added to punch to her already fantastic acoustic chops. “I’d like to introduce you to…my band!” she announced as she comically pointed at stack of gadgetry to her left.

“This is the kind of gig that Scots dream about!” she joked as she addressed the crowd, whose backs were being adequately warmed by the evening’s setting sun. “Sun, no trousers, beer, happy people — and no snow!” After making reference to its popularity among the Jazzercise set, she dutifully leaned into her breakthrough hit, “Black Horse And The Cherry Tree.” A clever mash-up of her own “Hold On” and the Bangles’ “Walk Like An Egyptian” followed before she ended her portion of the evening with a enthusiastic crowd participation on her signature song, “Suddenly I See.”

Tunstall assured the crowd she’d be returning to the U.S. again in the fall, after she spends the rest of the summer in the UK and Europe in support of her forthcoming new album. Although it looks, at least for now, as though Columbus fans may need to venture to Cleveland to catch her most nearby stop at the Beachland Ballroom on November 9.

Not too long afterward, Better Than Ezra assumed their positions for their slightly longer stage romp, beginning with 2001’s hook-filled “Extra Ordinary,” which eventually broke down into a playful ad-lib finale that incorporated lines from Weeknd’s “I Can’t Feel My Face” and Sublime’s classic “Santeria,” capped off with a quick nod to Gershwin’s “Summertime.”

Two of the band’s biggest hits, “Good” and “Desperately Wanting” followed a visit to their most recent studio effort, All Together Now, with “Insane” and “Crazy Lucky.” They also delivered their newest single, “Grateful” to a bubble of cheers from the crowd that now filled up the majority of the venue’s stage-adjacent pit.

Charismatic and quirky, BTE’s lead singer Kevin Griffin is hilarious and undeniably loves the microphone. That much was evident as he hopped boundlessly through the audience during a fabulous Almost Famous-inspired send-up of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” which prominently illuminated the talents of Barenaked Ladies’ Kevin Hearn on piano.

BTE ended their set, by the audience’s choice, with an uproarious cover of Manchurian alt-rockers James’ 1993 standard “Laid.” New music from the New Orleans-derived quartet is set to arrive in 2019 after Griffith releases his next solo project, which is reportedly in the queue for later this year.

With the glow of twilight surrounding the amphitheatre, Canadian Hall of Fame inductees the Barenaked Ladies claimed the spotlight for their 90-minute performance, greeting their audience with the bouncy “Odds Are” from 2013’s Grinning Streak, followed by lesser-known “Duct Tape Heart” from their 11th studio album, Silverball.

After playing their 2000 top-25 hit, “Pinch Me,” vocalist Ed Robertson hilariously chided an audience member wearing a t-shirt adorned with the cover art of its parent album, Maroon, for not recognizing the front man when they passed each other on the street earlier in the evening. “I said, ‘That’s a mighty fine looking shirt, sir!'” he recounted to the fan as the crowd laughed. “And you looked at me like, ‘Uh, yeah…could you fuckin’ leave me alone?'”

The banter and funny asides were the glue that bound together more than 20 full-length songs, including a lovely impromptu tribute to Gordon Rankin, the Cincinnati-based supplier of the band’s amplifiers who was in the audience that evening. BNL also wove an impressive rap that sampled lines from everyone, from Post Malone (“Rockstar”) to the Beatles’ (“Let It Be”), Portugal The Man (“Feel It Still”), Drake (“God’s Plan”), Migos (“Stir Fry”) and Bebe Rexha (“Meant To Be”).

For those enamored with the Ladies’ latest album, Fake Nudes, their set list delivered a healthy does of new stuff: the cheeky “Canada Dry,” the eclectic “Township of King,” and the rhythmic slickness of “We Took The Night” — the former and latter giving keyboardist Kevin Hearn and bassist Jim Creeggan, respectively, a welcomed turn at the vocal helm. Those who wanted vintage ladies got “Enid,” “If I Had $1,000,000,” “It’s All Been Done,” and “One Week.”

There were some fun little detours in the mix, too: a full version of the theme BNL contributed to the CBS sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, and a custom-built cover of the McCoy’s “Hang On Sloopy” that couldn’t possibly do anything but fully engage a slightly tipsy Arch City crowd. KT Tunstall and Kevin Griffin eventually joined their Canadian friends on stage for a pair of songs. Tunstall jammed out with Robertson on “Brian Wilson” (which is approximately, and unsurprisingly, when the first puff of marijuana smoke wafted across the first few rows of bodies in front of the stage), and Griffin shared vocals on “Looking Up,” one of a handful of tracks he co-wrote for Fake Nudes.

Throughout, the Ladies’ show felt like a reunion with old friends. I was in front of Jim Creeggan for the duration, who beamed constantly at the audience and traded pleasantries all night. But perhaps the best moments of the night were reserved for drummer Tyler Stewart, who stepped out from behind his kit and strutted around like a Jagger protege as he sang unquestionably fun covers of Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” and the Violent Femmes’ “Blister In The Sun.” It was all…everything…you wished their show would have been.

The night officially closed after BNL obliged their fans with an encore of “The Old Apartment” and the underrated Stunt gem “Light Up My Room.”

It was a very, very good night for music. It was a very, very good night for Columbus.

Matt Ellis is a freelance photographer who covers bands that visit the city and the Columbus Crew MLS team. More about Matt can be found at Matt Ellis Photography.

Want more from these artists? Check out the “Last Summer On Earth 2018” Tour preview interviews with KT Tunstall, Better Than Ezra, and the Barenaked Ladies.

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