Less Roberts, and mo' Berg

review of solo live show at Ted's Wrecking Yard, Toronto, November 26, 1999

by Kim Hughes, Now, December 2, 1999

Rating: Berg : NNNN; Roberts: NN

There's a fine line between witty self-parody and tortuous self-depreciation. Moe Berg recognizes it; Brad Roberts doesn't. Whether or not the pair schemed to use their simple acoustic sets as an opportunity to chronicle their own fallibility is unclear. But it sooooo ain't working for the otherwise enormously talented Roberts.

Case in point: the gag songs. Both opener Berg and headliner Roberts had one. But guess what? Pointing up the flimsiness of most pop is like shooting fish in a barrel - easy and alrady done to death (see Wierd Al). Roberts' histrionic stab at Toni Braxton's Unbreak My Heart was ridiculous. The song is over-the-top? Who knew?

Berg, on the other hand, used the Backstreet Boys' I Want It That Way to pull the crowd in for a singalong. His gentle handling of its undeniably hooky chorus made us care anew and revealed Berg's own hapless vulnrability to cheese. A fresh angle is always a revelation.

Similarly, Berg's unedited potshots at his own celebrity were touching in their universiality - the girl who would lose would lose her place in the hipster pecking order by revealing she'd slept with him; the perils of masturbating with shampoo in the shower. OK, maybe that doesn't have much to do with celebrity, but it's funny as hell and we can all relate.

Roberts, on the other hand, came off as spectacularly bitter, wooden and about as cutting-edge as the Unknown Comic. Malign your own back catalogue and you malign your fans. No one sweating it out in the rat race of life wants to witness his indifference to cranking out the hits that made him a rich man.

Not even those obligatory hits could prepare us for the sucker punch of badness that was Roberts playing the stale integrity card, relating how he was approached by a Camembert company interested in using Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm. Maybe he should've taken the money. Didn't exactly hurt the Verve.

Before the joy that was the end of the performance, the experience was not unlike walking into the tony Yorkville Birks shop to admire the diamonds and sapphires.  Painful.

Copyright 1999, NOW Communications Inc.

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