The beauty of a Barenaked Ladies concert is that, aside from the Canadian pop quintet's hits, you never know exactly what you're going to get.
A virtuosic solo bass rendition of "Hava Nagila"? Sure. A fully choreographed dance routine/mock fight complete with breakaway bottle to singer Ed Robertson's head to close out the stomping guitar rocker "Angry People"? Bring it on. An inexplicably elegant bluegrass version of Rob Base's rap classic "It Takes Two" sung in close harmony around an old-time microphone? Why not?
Toss in the signature improvised songs -- in this case a blues tune and a rap about Oprah -- the easy camaraderie and intra-band teasing, and Wednesday night's show at the Agganis Arena was classic BNL.
The five friends continue to uphold their unspoken motto of taking the music, but not themselves, seriously, knowing that making good music and good cheer are not mutually exclusive endeavors. And for two hours, that meant the crowd alternated between giggling at the band's cheeky humor and swooning for its sublime melodies.
For this tour, in support of its eighth release, "Barenaked Ladies Are Me," the band chose a chronological approach to the set list.
Following a pair of tunes from the new album -- the almost-country "Wind It Up" and the up-tempo retro pop of " Sound of Your Voice" -- and the surging guitar crunch of "The Old Apartment," the group played one track from each record, unearthing some worthy nuggets along the way.
The bouncy ska and group choir of "Grade 9" evoked a hybrid of Huey Lewis and the Bosstones. Co - singer Steve Page showed off the power in his pipes for the mournful "I Live With It Every Day ," and keyboardist Kevin Hearn added space age zip to "Shopping."
An acoustic set boasted the aforementioned Base rap-grass romp as well as a take on the straight bluegrass picker "Fox on the Run."
Perhaps the most enjoyable thing about a BNL show is how much the band members appear to enjoy it. As they played with vocal dynamics on "Pinch Me" or bounced their way through "One Week" and "Brian Wilson," you could tell that these guys still love their songs, each other, and their audience. Enough to rehearse, to craft set lists for casual and diehard fans, and to understand that a silly joke and a snappy backbeat can offer a similar release.
Former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty and his band opened with a complementary performance that found the playful hipster singer-songwriter going off on a few tangents of his own, including an acoustic mash-up of Guns N' Roses' s "Paradise City" and Kenny Rogers's "The Gambler."