The Last Summer on Earth Tour: Guster, Ben Folds Five, Barenaked Ladies at Mohegan Sun

Many times when there is a split bill for a concert, you are left wishing for a longer set by a certain band or find yourself scratching your head as to why another band was included. The Last Summer on Earth tour, which landed at the Mohegan Sun Arena, was not one of those cases. The bands Guster, Ben Folds Five and Barenaked Ladies compliment each others styles perfectly. There was a general sense of camaraderie throughout the night, with members of different bands joining their tour mates on stage. The banter and jokes were plentiful as well.

The handful of fans that arrived early were treated with the comedy musical stylings of Boothby Graffoe, a long time friend and touring partner of Barenaked Ladies. Graffoe opened his set by asking the name of the closest audience member then wrote a song for her on the spot. Boothby continued to make the audience chuckle; he set his acoustic guitar on a loop and placed it on the stage to pick up his camera. As he framed up his shot, he waved for the stadium to come closer together so he could fit it in the frame. Jim Creeggan of Barenaked Ladies played stand up bass during Kittens In A Bag and was followed by bandmates Kevin Hearn on guitar and Ed Robertson on drums for the songs Hop and Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. They exchanged light hearted banter throughout, joking about having the “Gambled Eggs” for breakfast. (Mohegan Sun’s arena is part of a casino.)

Well dressed Boston alt rockers, Guster, followed after an impressively short break. Ryan Miller quickly explained that he was wearing a suit and tie, purchased for a friend’s wedding, to use it as a tax write off and asked the crowd to tweet him some photographs as proof. Lead vocalists Adam Gardner and Miller jumped right into their harmonies for What You Wish For, with percussionist Brian “Thundergod” Rosenworcel on hand drums and Luke Reynolds on keys. Not only do Gardner and Miller trade vocals throughout their set, each band member passed around instruments. Gardner picked up the bass guitar as well as trumpet in addition to his lead guitar duties. Miller hopped between acoustic guitar, ukelele and keys. They slowed things down for the first half of the song Come Downstairs and Say Hello, and built up their energy from there. Ed Robertson made his second guest appearance of the night and sang the chorus during Satellite. Although the majority of the fans remained in their seats, many could be heard singing along. The band finished their high energy set with the uplifting This Could All Be Yours. For the first of three bands, Guster did an amazing job of exciting the audience for what was to come.

The lights went down as techno music blasted through the speakers. Ben Folds strolled across the stage with a wave to the crowd on his way to the piano. In a jarring contrast to the thumping beats proceeding them, Ben Folds Five opened with the ballad Missing the War. What followed was one of the strangest sets I’ve ever seen the trio perform; half of their songs were slow to mid tempo. Granted their new single, Sky High, and biggest hit from the 90’s Brick had to be included, they desperately needed to pick up the pace. Every time they started to build up a head of steam, they slowed it down again. Bassist Robert Sledge attempted to engage the crowd near the end of their set by waving his arms and clapping during Draw A Crowd, but by this point, they’d lost the audience. Drummer Darren Jessee could be seen raising his drum sticks high into the air and slamming them into his snare, almost as if he was willing more energy into their songs. Their closer, Song For The Dumped included a jazzy improvisation, finally showing the musicianship the band is known for. Ben Folds Five proceeded to sing a version of Rock This Bitch, which Folds created on the spot as he announced they had a minute and a half of time to fill before their set was over. It was definitely an off night for Ben Folds Five.

Magenta, green and purple lights flashed in sync to the opening notes of Limits, the opening track to Barenaked Ladies’ thirteenth studio album, Grinning Streak. Just like the title of the album the band was all smiles as they took the stage. Bassist Jim Creeggan strode to the left side of the stage to the enthusiastic cheers of the audience. Barenaked Ladies are fun and it’s clear they’re having fun making music together. Ed Robertson takes the majority of the lead vocal duties, but multi instrumentalist Kevin Hearn has stepped up in the absence of Steven Page. While Hearn’s vocals are not as powerful, his personality is more than enough to fill Page’s shoes.

Their set was a mixture of new songs and old favorites, including Enid, One Week and the Big Bang Theory Theme song. Both Ryan Miller and Brian Rosenworcel of Guster joined the band for songs, but the highest energy performance of the night occurred when Boothby Graffoe returned to the stage for Be My Yoko Ono. The entire arena jumped to their feet to cheer on Graffoe who danced wildly all over the stage. Banter between band members was thrown in between and during songs. Hearn joked about their performance in Philadelphia the night before which was outside in the stifling heat. When he screwed up the punch line, band mates Robertson and Tyler were quick to tease him about it. Another high point of the night was the band’s final song, Barenaked Rap. It was a medley of songs that started with Hearn singing New Order’s Bizzare Love Triangle. Robertson took over, rapping snippets of current hits: Macklemore’s Thrift Shop, Taylor Swift’s I Knew You Were Trouble, Britney Spears’ Scream & Shout, Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, David Guetta’s Titanium and Manfred Mann’s Blinded By The Light. Drummer Tyler Stewart, Creeggan and Robertson moved to the front of the stage to perform a series of dance moves while singing. The band returned for a three song encore that brought Stewart out behind his massive drum kit to the front of the stage. Robertson took up drumming duties for Alcohol and Blister In The Sun while Stewart strutted back and forth across the stage in a magenta checkered shirt with mint green slacks. It was the perfect combination of animation and enthusiasm that epitomized the entire night.