When I spoke with Steven Page in 2010, he had just released the first solo album of his post-Barenaked Ladies (BNL) career and was upbeat about mining the well of musical ore even further to show off the psychically complicated side of his artistic temperament.
Beneath the goofy exterior of hits such as “Be My Yoko Ono” and “One Week” was a reflective soul plagued by anxiety and clinical depression, which, at times, crippled him to the point that success wasn’t nearly as important as just being able to like himself on a daily basis.
In many ways, “Page One” was a godsend, a silver lining not only for Page, but for anyone who had ever stared into the abyss of mental illness doubting that they would ever feel whole again. He found a way to harness all the negativity stemming from his pain, highly publicized drug arrest, and subsequent split from the band he helped found into an exceptional pop record that finally declared him as one of the unsung songwriters of his generation.
Of course, the mainstream media still considers BNL to be a quirky Canadian novelty act that happened to breakthrough for a moment in the late 90s, but the serious fans know the truth.
Just listen to the captivating craftsmanship behind “What a Good Boy,” “Jane,” “When I Fall,” or “Call and Answer,” and the vision should clear right up.
Page and his band swept into Buffalo last Thursday evening for a set at Canalside, which served as the ideal venue to showcase his affectionate tenor to the masses. He led off with a retooled version of “A New Shore,” a song which Page refers to as his “Solsbury Hill,” from the aforementioned “Page One” release and treated the gathered to 90 minutes of blissful pop creations.
Old favorites such as “The Old Apartment” and “It’s All Been Done” meshed beautifully with the new flavor of “Over Joy” and “Indecision,” but the real showstopper arrived in the form of “Break Your Heart,” a cut from 1996’s “Born on a Pirate Ship” that smolders your emotions at every turn.
Page’s vocal soared over the skyway and straight into Lake Erie, where I’m sure the various marine life were audibly shaken by his tale of relationship despair.
Buffalo’s own masters of alternative flair, Son of the Sun, opened the show with what could be the finest set I’ve heard from them since initially experiencing their wall-of-sound vibe at Town Ballroom back in 2009. The splendor of original tracks such as “My Best Mistake” and “As Far As Lucy” was amplified on the stage, while a taut cover of “Psycho Killer” from Talking Heads allowed the crowd to get a healthy whiff of what this band is all about. If they don’t break out soon, it will be a crime.
The Truth, a party-rock outfit from Pittsburgh, found itself in the middle of these two forces, but, while their energy and musicianship was promising, the unusual amount of covers they brought out made forming a definitive opinion of their sound impossible to achieve.