- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2004

After nearly an hour of Alanis Morissette’s trademark grimacing, yodeling and lyrical confessions, one sobering fact filled Merriweather Post Pavilion’s packed Tuesday-night house: She’s lost the magic.

That old magic — kicked off by her 1995 scorned-woman hit “You Oughta Know” — used to send teenage girls and 20-somethings into a headbanging, shared frenzy. Now that same audience, full-grown women by now, sits and stares, languidly sipping beer, waiting for the next act.

From the get-go, things seemed off; from Miss Morissette’s all-male band that looked barely out of high school (save for a bearded keyboardist) to her too-green hip-hugging bellbottoms and newly cropped hair.

Her set began with loud feedback and new material from her spring release “So-Called Chaos.” With Miss Morissette, it’s either love her or…love her. Merriweather’s crowd for the most part fell into the latter category, sitting quietly — barely moving, in fact — until a radio-friendly song from the last decade appeared.

The crowd, clearly waiting for their Barenaked Ladies to arrive, finally awoke for the Ottawa native’s mid-‘90s singles — all staples of adult alternative radio by now — such as “Head Over Feet,” “Hand in My Pocket” and, of course, “You Oughta Know,” which featured big-screen visuals of leaping flames and appropriately angry sparks. Her newer material, although more intricate and mature, was lost on the distracted audience. Her fans left the venue fans, but it’s not likely she won any converts.

Concertgoers leapt to their feet and let out a deafening cheer when fellow Canadians Barenaked Ladies hit the stage.

The band, or BNL as they’re known to their solid fan base, kicked off their lively set with “Brian Wilson” off their first full-length release, 1992’s “Gordon.”

The quintet, loved as much for their proficient musicianship as their silly lyrics and everyday-guy persona, played hits spanning their 15-year career, including their 1998 breakout, the cheery rap-along single “One Week.”

Lead singer Steven Page and guitarist Ed Robertson couldn’t have been more personable. Mr. Page — a thinner, cuter version of Drew Carey — bounced like a jumping bean, and Mr. Robertson, clearly the BNL hunk, ran up (and then down) Merriweather’s amphitheater steps amid gleeful screams and scurrying security guards.

The 2000 single “Pinch Me,” a nostalgic ballad about summertime naps, lunch and drinking from the hose in your hometown, was the perfect addition to the warm August evening. The not-so-naked Ladies never waned for a moment, and it was apparent from their very first chord who the crowd really came to see.

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