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The first time the Barenaked Ladies tried to play Nathan Phillips Square, they got the heave for having a politically incorrect name. Yesterday, they got the key to the city.

"They are not bare; they are not naked, and they are not ladies. But they are one of the top bands in the world and great ambassadors for our city and our country," deputy mayor Case Ootes said as he presented the key to the band.

Mr. Ootes recalled that, in 1991, city officials, with the support of then mayor June Rowlands, ruled the band could not perform at the city's New Year's Eve celebrations because of its name.

"That was a ridiculous ruling, and I can assure everyone that the Barenaked Ladies will always be welcome on this square. We are a new city with a new spirit, and a band like this one perfectly reflects our spirit and pride," he said.

The group, which begins a U.S. tour today, staged a 90-minute concert and radio interview live on a local rock station at the square yesterday morning. The gig had been slated for the studio, but when Mayor Mel Lastman's office heard about it, he invited them to the square.

"It's a nice recognition of what we do. When we travel the world, we make sure we tell people we're from Toronto," lead singer Steve Page told reporters at the end of the show.

He recalled that, when they were banned, "we were really embarrassed. . . . But in retrospect, it really did do a lot of good for us."

Even so, the former mayor is not on the band's Christmas card list.

"Regardless of the innocuous nature of the scandal, she wasn't pleasant to us in the press, so there was no need for us to be particularly pleasant back," Mr. Page said.

As for the now famous name, singer Ed Robertson said: "I wish there was a good story to this. But Steve and I made it up at a Bob Dylan concert. We were bored, and we thought it was a good name."

The band was offered the key to the city in 1994, but turned it down since it was offered by Mayor Rowlands just before an election.

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