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Bif Naked at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom. She is on her first tour since being treated for cancer.

Bif Naked

  • The Fox Seeds 2009 CD Launch Party
  • At the Commodore Ballroom
  • In Vancouver on Thursday

The last time I saw Bif Naked, in March, she was wrapped in a cream shawl and shivering, her post-chemotherapy fingernails covered in Band-Aids.

The contrast Thursday night in Vancouver could not have been more pronounced: Wearing a black micro-skirt and a sparkly tank top that showed off not just her elaborate tattoos, but a finely honed pair of biceps, Naked was a feisty whirling dervish on stage. There wasn't a hint of lethargy to this performance in her hometown, just one stop on her first tour since being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

She was headlining the conclusion of the 30th annual Fox FM Vancouver Seeds competition for new bands. Previous winners include Nickelback, and Naked was once a competitor while a member of the band Chrome Dog in 1993.

The three finalists in the 2009 contest each had 20 minutes to rouse the crowd before the final winner was announced and given prizes that include management consultation from Coalition Entertainment, which handles Our Lady Peace, and expert assistance from local sound god Mike Fraser (AC/DC, Franz Ferdinand) in mixing their debut single.

Having brought their fans and family members with them, the rookie rock stars had a very forgiving crowd to please. The winner - Goodbye Beatdown, a hip-hop/funk/reggae fusion act from suburban Langley, B.C. - is an energetic outfit with a good rhythm guitarist and a fresh sound. The lead singer's grandmother (standing beside me when the winners were crowned) was beside herself with pride and excitement.

An excited buzz went through the room when another former winner - Matthew Good - made a surprise appearance to introduce Bif Naked. The local rocker, who's been more prolific as a blogger and political activist, has a new album due out next month. It was as good a time as any to remind people he was still making music, I suppose.

By this time it was getting late, and the sell-out crowd was thinning. "You guys look amazing to me," Naked said, after asking for the house lights to be turned up between each song, allowing the singer to interact more effectively with the audience and, less positively, to watch the steady stream of bodies heading toward the exit. By the end of her hour-long set, it was after midnight and only a modest, core group remained.

None of that seemed to bother her as she performed many of the tracks from her latest album, The Promise , which asks us to stay positive and shrug off our mistakes. On stage with her was the album's producer -Jason Darr of Neurosonic - on guitar.

The band was tight, with the newer material showing greater depth than the enthusiastically received familiar pop punk of Spaceman and I Love Myself Today . The occasional flicker of torch-song melancholy, however, stretched Naked's voice and needed to be pushed harder to be convincing.

She, though, was exuberant - and clearly disappointed when the venue decided it was closing time. "Live long and live well," she said, waving goodbye, a huge smile on her face.