LEWISTON — Barenaked Ladies and Better Than Ezra both formed 30 years ago, one way up north in Toronto, and the other way down south in New Orleans. Despite the geographical differences, they share an approach to music that can be described in one word — fun.

It was an early start at Artpark this week, with singer-songwriter KT Tunstall hitting the stage at 6 p.m. You don’t see many engaged crowds at Artpark on a Tuesday at 6 p.m. but KT was able to draw a decent response with a spirited performance.

Before I tell you about Better Than Ezra I will say I had no real opinion on the band, and only knew one song, “Good,” which a cover band I was in a few years back used to perform. Better Than Ezra hit the stage around 7 p.m. and performed “Good” very early in their set, which I thought to myself was a bold move since it was their most popular song.

After “Good” lead singer/guitarist Kevin Griffin launches into a melody of Rush songs. With the venues proximity to Canada it was the perfect choice, and drummer Michael Jerome had the chops to handle Neil Peart’s parts. After the Rush medley Griffin joked, “You want to play enough Rush to get the guys going, but if you play it too long you will lose all the girls.” Griffin also did a hilarious version of Dave Matthews.

Griffin had plenty of funny things to say during the band’s set, and the band added two excellent cover tunes, “Laid” by James, and a hilarious version of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” during which Kevin Griffin walked through the venue, almost getting stuck in the huge crowd.

I had not expected Better than Ezra and BNL to mesh together as well as they did. Better Than Ezra really won some people over with their set, including this writer. Kevin Griffin is an outstanding and engaging performer.

Barenaked Ladies hit the stage around 8 p.m. and they had one of those crowds that clearly loved the band and anything they did was going to bring a solid response from the audience. BNL’s set included all of their major hits and new songs from last year’s release “Fake Nudes.”

They brought out KT Tunstall early to sing “Brian Wilson” along with Ed Robertson. The pair traded verses and it was a fresh take on an old song. After the song the band did a mini set change and went into a short acoustic set that included “Canada Dry” from their latest album “Fake Nudes” and a fun version of an old classic, “Enid.”

Better Than Ezra’s Kevin Griffin joined BNL for “Lookin’ Up,” the lead single from “Fake Nudes.” That set the stage for a barrage of hits including the theme from “Big Bang Theory” followed by “One Week,” and then “If I Had $1,000,000.”

The regular set ended with Tyler Stewart coming out from behind the drum kit and taking over lead vocal duties on a cover of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” with Ed Robertson on drums. The encores were “The Old Apartment” and “Light Up My Room.”

It was another busy week at Artpark with a huge crowd and a party atmosphere, and again the live performers delivered a solid set of music that was a lot of fun.

   

Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for the Niagara Gazette.