Live Review: Ben Folds

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Ben Folds

Ovens Auditorium

March 1, 2009

The Deal: Despite the bad weather, fans of Ben Folds packed into Ovens Auditorium for his show. Opening acts included Miniature Tigers and The Spartones.

The Good: Ben Folds went on stage right around 9 p.m. This is good, because I was coming from the Lake Norman area and didn’t want to end up on the side of the road (like the many folks who were stranded, having lost control of their vehicles due to icy road conditions). I took my time and arrived shortly before Folds went on stage. Folds kicked off the show with tracks from his 2008 album Way to Normal. This included “The Bitch Went Nuts,” “Effington” and “Brainwascht.” Folds took the time between songs to tell the audience “Thanks for braving the weather.” He also explained how he created “fake” songs (released onto the internet) with the same names as the songs on his album Way to Normal, prior to its release. He went on to play the fake “Way to Normal” (not from the album), and he referred to it as the “weakest political song.” After that, he played the fake version of “Dr. Yang” (not from the album), followed by the real album’s version. Songs were upbeat and Folds’ piano playing was spastic and phenomenal throughout the show. For “Free Coffee,” Folds wedged the lid of an Altoids can in the piano to create an odd, old-school Nintendo-like escapade of sounds. But, Folds didn’t play all newbie songs. He played some old Ben Folds Five songs too. This included “Boxing” (before Folds played it, he even reflected on his playing it long ago at the Milestone in Charlotte), “Brick” (Folds also told the crowd that on tour he resists saying other cities names, instead of Charlotte), “Philosophy,” “Fair” and others. Added instrument elements in “Fair,” were a nice touch and included the triangle, while others like “Alice Childress” and “Army” included the French horn. Folds left the stage and returned for an encore, which included “Emaline” and “Not the Same,” the latter of which he heavily used audience participation in singing, and was joined by The Spartones, a cappella group from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The Bad: Nothing was bad about this show. Folds played a long set of 24 songs total. I was only a little worried about what was going on outside. Why did it have to snow the night Folds came to town? Hopefully fans got home safe and sound.

The Verdict: Having seen Folds live, after not seeing him for so many years, I was thoroughly impressed. A performance by Ben Folds shouldn’t be missed. You’ll be spellbound by his ability to play piano and the energy that fills the room with his live performance. This show was worth the slow ride home across ice and snow. I’ll definitely catch Folds again, the next time he visits Charlotte.

Ben Folds Setlist

The Bitch Went Nuts

Effington

Brainwascht

Annie Waits

Alice Childress

Way to Normal (non-album version)

Dr. Yang  (non-album version)

Dr. Yang (Way to Normal album version)

Hiroshima

Landed

Free Coffee

Boxing

Best Imitation of Myself

Brick

Kylie from Connecticut

Bastard

You Don’t Know Me

Zak and Sara

Fair

Army

Kate

Philosophy

Encore

Emaline

Not the Same

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