Live Music / Out Of Town / Outdoor

Barenaked Ladies, Alive @ 5 – Stamford, CT

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Everybody has those certain songs that when you hear them, they immediately take you back to a certain time in your life.  When I hear Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good,” I am instantly a 5-year-old sitting in my dad’s car watching him rock out – and rocking out with him.  If I hear Beastie Boys’ “Sure Shot,” I’m now a senior driving my freshman sister to high school and listening to her completely mess up the words (“If you’re cannon balls and they won’t drop”…what???) So, a couple of weeks ago when I got an email from Matt Vogel, one of the Sesame Street performers, asking if he could make an appearance as The Count at a Barenaked Ladies concert, my college-self started doing backflips and singing “One Week” while my present-trying-to-be-professional-self said “Um, sure, I think that will be fine.”

I didn’t know before the email that Matt was friends with the band members of the Barenaked Ladies – and that’s probably a good thing because I loved their music in college.  Seriously loved.  “Call and Answer” was my post break-up mantra of the late 1990’s because that song spoke to me on so many levels. I actually think it must have been written for me.  Fast forward 15 years and I’m still a fan.  Maybe I don’t listen to them as often as I used to, but those old feelings still surface when I hear their music.  And now, I’m not only going to see them perform live, but I’m going to get to work with them professionally – ah-may-zing.  Thank you dear baby Jesus (and Matt Vogel).

This particular working gig was very last minute and very down and dirty.  We went without all the normal puppeteering tech needs that come with the Muppets, so I was more relaxed than usual and just there to enjoy the ride and music (and to bring the physical puppet from New York, of course).  Matt brought his son, Hunter, to the sound check and he got an impromptu lesson in bass cello & guitar playing from Jim Creeggan.  How cool is that? When the sound check started, we sat on the side of the stage and watched BNL casually rehearse their new songs.  They made everything seem so effortless, and that’s because they have been together for 25 years – they know what each other is thinking before it’s said.  After a brief powwow discussing The Count’s entrance with Ed, Jim, Kevin and Tyler, we quickly rehearsed the song, “7,8,9,” and then left them to finish their sound check.

The stage at the Alive @ 5 concert series in Stamford is definitely smaller than what BNL is used to playing on.  And during the sound check, the only available area for fans to watch was a small patch of grass at an intersection of busy downtown roads.  I was a bit worried.  When we returned a couple of hours later for the concert, the entire area was transformed.  Roads were blocked off, tents of food, beer, wine and family activities were everywhere, and 10,000 people were starting to swarm the stage to watch the Ladies perform.  I brought my Aunt Julie along as my guest. This was her second concert with me in two weeks (she has to start writing guest posts for CV), and this time around we had backstage passes and an amazing view of the band.

I didn’t know what to expect.  Are they going to rock out?  Am I going to like their new music? Am I going to remember all the old songs?  Am I going to get emotional? The answer was yes. Let me tell you – The Barenaked Ladies have still got it.  They took the stage like the rock stars they are and started their set with the songs that everybody remembers and still loves. “The Old Apartment” and “Pinch Me” were among the first played and then they transitioned seamlessly to their newer music.  Pretty soon we were getting ready for The Count’s appearance and I was excited and nervous!  This was my first rock band concert appearance with a Sesame character and I just wanted the audience to like it. My doubts were quickly dashed when a huge roar came from the crowd as Ed introduced The Count. Phew. Matt’s wife and entire brood were also with us and we raced to the front of the stage to watch the performance. The song was undeniable adorable and over too quickly.

 

 

After my work was done, we were all able to hang backstage, have a few beers, and watch the rest of the concert.  They moved through the rest of their 18 song set and played fan favorites “Brian Wilson,” “Odds Are,” “One Week,” “Big Bang” and FINALLYIf I Had A Million Dollars!!”

 

 

But they weren’t done. The highlight (and amazing surprise) of the night was at the end of their set when they became a beat-boxing and rapping band that sang covers of Lou Reed, Katy Perry’s “Roar,” Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us,” Lorde’s “Royals” and Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” It was fan-f’ing-tastic!! I knew they were musically talented, but this was incredible.  Was the concert now over?  It had to be over. How can they top that?  Nope, it wasn’t over.  Ed switched places with Tyler and started playing the drums while Tyler took the lead vocals and sang classic rock songs from the 70’s and 80’s like a BOSS.  WHAT???? Tyler covered many songs but the best were The Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun,” and Led Zepplin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”  I recently discovered that I absolutely love it when famous bands cover other people’s music.  Watching them take over those songs and put their own spin on it was awesome.  What a fantastic end to an amazing concert.

 

Alicia’s Takeaway: A behind-the-scenes story – The Count is a puppet that takes two puppeteers to perform – Matt does the voice, mouth and left hand, and another puppeteer does the right hand.  This being the down and dirty performance I was telling you about earlier, Matt didn’t want to ask another professional performer to come out to Stamford for this favor.  So after some persuading and practice, his 13-year-old son, Jack, performed the right hand.  I know that Matt is a huge fan of BNL, so I can only imagine what that moment was like for him.  Having his oldest son perform with him on the stage of one of his favorite band’s concerts – well, I always say that I’m a crier at my job and this was no exception.

Matt Vogel, Barenaked Ladies

Matt & Jack Vogel perform The Count together at the Barenaked Ladies Concert.

 

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