Fans of the Canadian pop band Barenaked Ladies no longer throw boxes of macaroni and cheese during shows.

For years, they would bring boxes of the instant dinners to Barenaked Ladies concerts and heave them on stage when they were referenced as the meal of choice in the song “If I Had $1000000.”

It was fun, both for the audience and the band members. But like lots of fun stuff, it’s only fun until someone gets hurt.

“I always liked the spirit of that, but those sharp edges can hurt somebody, so over the years we’ve tried to curb the throwing,” said Kevin Hearn, the band’s keyboardist, who also plays guitar.

“Nowadays, we often have someone at the door collecting them for a food bank, or the other night, a security guard took a box from someone and gently placed it on the stage.”

Hearn thinks the mac-and-cheese stunt has endured because the song embraces a “child-like daydreaming” that people of all ages can relate to. “If I Had $1000000” is one of the band’s most requested songs.

Barenaked Ladies has survived for more than 20 years thanks in part to such songs full of clever wordplay and whimsy. But the band is also made up of serious musicians trying to make seriously good music, Hearn said.

Its 11th album, “All in Good Time,” was released in March, and peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard 200. On Tuesday, the band will play Portland’s Merrill Auditorium.

It’s the first Barenaked Ladies album without Steven Page, who co-founded the band in 1988 with Ed Robertson when the two were schoolmates in suburban Toronto. Page left the group in early 2009.

The band’s press materials give few details of why Page left the band, quoting Robertson as saying, “it was time to move on.” Hearn did not want to get into reasons for the split either, but said he feels it was for the best.

“It was very strange the first few shows. I miss his voice, and I miss some of the songs we don’t play anymore,” said Hearn. “But the change has been reinvigorating, and we’re having fun again.”

One of the fun things the band will do in the coming year is headline another “Ships and Dip” cruise on the Norwegian Dawn, sailing out of Miami for five days in February. This is the fourth “Ships and Dip” cruise put on by the band.

The event is basically a floating music festival with performances by Barenaked Ladies, Guster, Ben Kweller, Great Big Sea, Stephen Kellogg and several other acts. Prices start at $649 per person.

The band began creating a wide following in the early 1990s with rousing live shows and songs such as “If I Had $1000000” and “Brian Wilson.” Then they began to have radio hits, including “The Old Apartment” and “One Week.” The latter was nominated for a Grammy in 1999, but lost to Brian Setzer’s “Jump, Jive an’ Wail.” In 2001, the band got another Grammy nomination, for “Pinch Me,” but lost again.

Besides making a new album, adjusting to life without Page and organizing a floating music festival, some band members have side projects. Hearn, for instance, spends a lot of his off time playing guitar and piano in the touring band of rock legend Lou Reed.

He was so used to bantering on stage with Barenaked Ladies that he began doing it with Reed as well, not sure how Reed would respond.

“I did a piano flourish one night at the end of ‘I’m Sticking With You,’ and he said he wished that had been on the record. So I said I couldn’t have put it on the record, because I wasn’t born yet,” said Hearn.

“Since then, every night on stage, he’s talked to me. He’s a hero of mine, and it’s really an honor to be playing with him.” 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]


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