By: Jordan Cohen
After years of success in the music industry, there must only be a few things to which Steven Page is not accustomed. Donning a formal suit to perform for a small crowd at the Café Carlyle has got to be one of them.
You see, Mr. Page is the co-founder and former front man of The Barenaked Ladies, the Canadian alt-rock band best known for their clever lyrics, resounding vocals, lighthearted humor, and that indomitable 1998 radio hit, “One Week.” Having sold fifteen million albums and packed venues all over the world, The Barenaked Ladies has easily cemented its place in modern pop music history.
But in 2009, after more than two decades with the band, Mr. Page ventured off alone and has since recorded two solo albums, hosted a TV show, and has written scores for several Stratford Festival productions in Canada. And, as he describes it, he’s in a better place now.
In his ten show residency at the Café Carlyle, Mr. Page performs songs from both the Barenaked Ladies canon and his solo albums, including his latest, Heal Thyself Pt. 1: Instinct, released on March 11. And I’m thrilled to report that he makes the transition from massive arena to intimate supper-club with elegance and style, connecting as effortlessly with a small audience as he does with throngs of thousands.
Overall, Mr. Page exudes self-confidence and maturity, and displays a middle-aged instinct for looking backwards to mine the depths of his experience for his art. However, his boy-like whimsy remains, if somewhat muted.
Accompanied by Kevin Fox on cello and Craig Northey on guitar (Mr. Northey co-wrote many of the songs on Heal Thyself), and himself moving between guitar and piano, Mr. Page fills the room (and then some) with his full-throttled tenor. On classic BNL ballads “Break Your Heart” and “What A Good Boy,” both masterpieces, Mr. Page shows off the fullness of his vocal power, while other crowd-pleasers from the BNL era, such as “The Old Apartment” and “Brian Wilson,” allow his theatrical grandiosity to emerge.
Several songs on his latest album, many of which Mr. Page performs, are dedicated to the creative experience – appropriate for an artist that seems to be seeking new horizons. “There’s a Melody” is a restrained and pulsating ode to the frustrations of songwriting, while “Manchild” lightheartedly mocks the sensitive-songwriter-type that sits at home and waits for inspiration while his spouse works a nine-to-five.
“Hole in the Moonlight,” with the lyrics, “Closing my eyes to see/I watched as it grew/Hole in the moonlight/Where my dreams feel through,” is an achingly melancholic requiem. And musically, like the entire evening, it’s a feast for the ear.
Photos: David Andrako
Steven Page – Heal Thyself: Past, Present, and Future
Café Carlyle at the Carlyle Hotel 35 E 76th St, New York, NY 10021March 22 to April 2, Tuesday through Saturday at 8:45 p.m.