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'Ladies' pepper holiday celebration with spunk, silliness

As the proverbial carols of the season go, this is a time for reflection, for jubilant celebration, for unbridled merriment.

And for a Barenaked Ladies concert, but of course.

Almost any Buffalonian under the age of 30 can tell you that to see the Barenaked Ladies live is to succumb to the carefree and reckless joy the boys from Toronto are known to bring to their live sets. A typical BNL concert usually involves a number of gags, and this gig at Shea's Performing Arts Center was no exception.

Between a set of multidenominational holiday songs -- which means, impractically, an obligatory Hanukkah song thrown in for good measure -- and their own uppity fun material, the guys imparted on the sold-out crowd a number of classic Barenaked antics. These included, among others, impromptu raps on every topic under the sun (or whichever sky is currently seasonal), dancing disguised as jumpy physical challenges (such as lead singer/guitarist Steven Page's chaotic spazzing during "Too Little Too Late"), and a regular inclination to bond with audience members in the front rows, often handing over guitar picks for fans to strum along with.

A number of youngsters seated in the very front were given ample attention, a nice touch from these hardworking and charming performers. Holiday tunes were pulled from their 2004 release, "Barenaked for the Holidays," which featured a number of classic seasons songs presented in the band's typically sophomoricpoppy/polka/disco/jazzy/bluesy/adult contemporary/rock aesthetic.

In most cases, the translation is won over with newfound humor and joy. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman/We Three Kings" was the most traditional sounding of the set Monday, but still added an extra kick with help from rhythm kings Jim Creeggan on bass and Tyler Stewart on drums.

Other standards from the band's catalog included tunes culled mostly from the last few releases -- "Stunt," 2000's "Maroon," and this year's "Barenaked Ladies Are Me." A few gems like "The Old Apartment" crept out too, as well as the one that started it all, "If I Had $1,000,000."

Opening band Guster, a group of shaggy Bostonians who tread on the dangerous line between jam band meatheads and yet another Dave Matthews Band mimicry, were wonderfully fun and talented. They imparted a sense of humor akin to the headliners, but with a more relaxed and fluid sound. A wonderful warm-up to a hot bare-naked romp in the snow.

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>Concert Review

Barenaked Ladies

Monday night in Shea's Performing Arts Center.

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