The news today that Steven Page is leaving Barenaked Ladies effectively puts an end to my young adulthood.
I’ve been a BNL fan since my freshman year in college in the fall of 1992, back when the guys were overweight geeks, Gordon was their only album, few people outside of Canada or college campuses had heard of them, and I couldn’t get any radio station to take my request to play them. (For the record, my copy of Gordon has the original cover on it.)
Since then, I’ve seen BNL live about 15 times — more than I’ve seen any other singer or band — including a show at the tiny Somerville Theater and one on New Year’s Eve at the Fleet Center. I was even at the huge free show in Government Center the night before the release of Stunt, the one with the overwhelming turnout.
Over the years I’ve watched all the band members lose weight, raise families, deal with Kevin Hearn’s battle with cancer, become the house band for Mix 98.5, and mature as artists. Heck, I’ve been a fan so long I can even remember Andy Creegan, and I remember being bummed when he left the band before the release of Born on a Pirate Ship.
Steven Page, though … he holds a special place in my heart. When I was in college, I got the chance to interview Steve for The Justice. It may not have been my finest piece of journalism, but it certainly was one of the most fun interviews I’ve ever done.
When I set up the chat with the PR person, I was told I’d be speaking with Tyler Stewart, the drummer. Then, at the appointed time, the phone rang and it was Steven — calling from a phone booth, natch. It caught me off-guard, but made me very excited. After all, how often do you get to interview the lead singer of your favorite band?
The story became a preferred clip to show off to potential employers early in my career, so I guess you could say Steven helped me get my start in the journalism world.
When BNL played the Berklee Performance Center two weeks after my interview, even though it was a cold February night, my friends and I hung around the stage door after the show to meet the guys in person, take pictures, and get their autographs.
No surprise, that was one of the highlights of my junior year.
Barenaked Ladies without Steven Page just won’t be Barenaked Ladies. This is meant as no slight to Ed Robertson or the other guys, but it’s true.
Songs like “Break Your Heart,” “Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank,” or “What a Good Boy” will simply have to be retired because no one will ever be able to sing them like Steven did.
And other tunes like the classic “If I Had $1000000” won’t be the same without Steven’s contributions. None of the other guys can dance like Steven, or control the crowd like he did during his post-“$1000000” refrain of “Memory.”
And the banter between Steven and Ed. Who will Ed joke with now in the live shows or on tracks like “Crazy ABCs,” from their recent kids album Snacktime?
I’m sorry, but they’re no longer Barenaked Ladies if Steven Page isn’t in the band.
Barenaked Ladies were the soundtrack to my 20s and early 30s, and today it’s almost like I am closing the book on that chapter of my life.
I wish Steven all the best in the future, and hope he deals with all the issues that lead to his decision to leave the band in a way that lets him close the book on that chapter of his life.
As for BNL, I’ll still follow the band (they’re going to start recording a new album in April), but not with the same enthusiasm. I’m already looking forward to the reunion.
I’ll miss you, Steve. Good luck, buddy.