NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — You know his voice and you know his songs. Steven Page became world famous as co-frontman of Canadian icons the Barenaked Ladies.
It’s been more than a decade since Page and the band parted ways, but the music they made isn’t entirely in the past for him.
Page is coming to North Tonawanda’s Riviera Theatre this Spring, ready to play memorable hits like “Brian Wilson” among pieces of his solo catalogue.
“It’s probably half and half. Depends on the show,” Page said.
The songs aren’t going to sound just like the album, and that’s given away by the fact that a trio is taking the stage.
“I always want them to bring themselves to it,” Page said of his bandmates. “There’s something that is fresh to it as well, and that feels like it’s not like doing a cover band of my old band.”
The Steven Page Trio includes Page on acoustic guitar, piano and vocals, Kevin Fox on cello and Craig Northey on electric guitar. The two men joining Page are guys he’s known for decades.
“Having a cello, it can be both like a bass and also like a lead instrument. It can do both and that’s a great thing to rely on,” Page says.
There’s no drummer, but that doesn’t mean the performance has any less power in Page’s eyes.
“Your energy and volume and everything else can still be at rock band size when you need to,” he says.
The Riviera is a special venue for Page. It was the first Western New York venue he played at in 2010 after going solo. April 29 will be his first time back at the Niagara County venue since then.
“It was a pretty awesome show cause they had that amazing organ there…this amazing, mighty Wurlitzer that rises out of the pit,” Page said. “My then-keyboard player would play and I was singing ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen. So, I’m hoping they let us do some schtick with it again this time.”
Some of the other local venues he’s played over the years include Artpark, Canalside and KeyBank Center, or as he put it, “the arena of ever-changing names.”
“I have so many great memories of playing in Western New York over the last 35 years,” Page said. One of the memories he shared was of his middle child, who was just over a year old at the turn of the millennium, joining him on stage at the KeyBank Center as the Barenaked Ladies rang in the new year.
“I put my glass of champagne down on the drum riser to sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at Midnight, and my child just picked it up and chugged the whole glass, right in front of 20,000 people…There doesn’t seem to have been any long-term effects, but it didn’t look like a great moment in rock n’ roll parenting at the time…it was Y2K, we didn’t even know we were gonna survive!” Page remarked.
He’s also sung in the wide spaces of Kleinhans Music Hall and Shea’s — the latter of which he says is one of his favorite venues to play in Western New York.
“At Shea’s, I remember playing and the balcony was bouncing so much. It was terrifying.”
Playing so close to home is something reflected in Page’s roots.
“The connection between the Buffalo area and Toronto is so tight. Each grew up watching each other’s TV stations, knew all the names of the suburbs and everything else. I think Buffalonians feel the same way about Toronto in a lot of ways.”
Now proudly living outside Syracuse as a central New Yorker, his wife’s home region, Page says he feels an even closer connection to the 716. His newest album is even called “Excelsior.”
“Everybody thinks of me as being Canadian, that’s how I have identified. But I’m invested in where I am, and I belong here,” he said.
Talking about previous gigs in Western New York, Page spoke of a club show he played here where the power went out mid-show. He says this has happened elsewhere too, including Radio City Music Hall, but it doesn’t mean the night was over.
“When that happens, you have to dig deep as a performer to kind of like, keep the audience engaged in a show…People will remember that show forever,” Page said of the club performance.
Playing at home in Toronto is something that Page says can be stressful — a love/hate relationship, really, but when he plays a good show there, it sticks with him.
There’s a standard to live up to, not only based on his past performances for a crowd that knows him well, but everyone else who comes through there, too.
“They remember when you were just starting out, so there’s no sense of awe or excitement sometimes. They can be a little jaded,” Page said.
Thinking of classic songs from his Barenaked Ladies days, like the above-mentioned “Brian Wilson,” he loves to see the audience singing along, knowing each person may be bringing a different memory with them that’s tied to the music.
“They all bring it to this one venue together, and it’s really exciting to me,” he said.
Regarding his former bandmates, he says they don’t talk very often, other than an occasional text here or there, but there’s no tension.
“I think both parties have kind of realized it’s been a long time with a lot of water under the bridge, and our lives have moved on without each other,” Page said.
Since the split, the band and Page have only performed on stage once together when they were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2018. And that could have very well been the last time.
“I don’t think there’s any opportunity for that kind of thing in the future, and that’s okay with me, too,” Page said.
Even after all these years, Page still gets a little nervous before going out on stage.
“Some part of you has to feel like this is a make-or-break moment, that every gig is as important as the last or as the next,” he said.
But that’s not to say it’s not a good thing. Getting the chance to sing and entertain alongside his friends in the trio is something Page described as “joyful.”
Tickets to see the Steven Page Trio stage are on sale for $33. You can purchase them here.
Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.