Ben Folds live beats the original Ben Folds Five
The 42-year-old pianist played the majority of his latest album, <i>Way to Normal</i>.
Oct. 21, 2008
Ben Folds may be 42 years old, but that doesn't mean he forgot how to put on a show. Ben Folds performed at Pershing Arena at Truman College in Kirksville Saturday, rarely sitting down on his piano stool to play and constantly hovering over the keys, pounding and wailing away.
Most of Folds' set was made up of tracks from Way to Normal, released Sept. 30. This would have been disappointing for older fans, if Folds hadn't known how to perform them. The entire set seemed to be a theatrical performance, from the tambourine player shaking his instrument mockingly and spiritedly, to humongous sad faces keytar players in black donned during select songs.
With his simple striped polo and big, reflective glasses playing off of his genuine smile, Folds looked like that token socially awkward friend you can't help but love. His soothing voice remained true to recorded albums, as did the sometimes annoying falsetto background vocals.
Although many artists either ignore the fact that their music is pirated or just complain about it, Folds joined in on the fun. Instead of becoming the victim, Folds played a practical joke on fans who planned to pirate Way to Normal. Folds himself leaked what seemed like the album onto the Internet - but this was not the album the fans intended to download. In a day, Folds recorded a fake version of Way to Normal, with songs that sounded like the titles on the real album but were incorrect ("Free Coffee" became the fake version, "Free Coffee Town").
"Some reviews said the fake songs were better," Folds said disappointedly onstage after playing "Dr. Yang." Songs like "Dr. Yang" had the same name but different song content. During the show, Folds played the fake song (which usually contained real stories or humorous and dramatic tales), followed by the real track. Anecdotes supplemented the fake songs, such as "Bitch Went Nutz," which told the true story of a rising Republican lawyer who accidentally brings a "flaming leftist liberal" date to the Christmas office party. Chaos ensues and his reputation is shattered.
Always the element of surprise, after playing a last song, Folds said, "We'll come back and play a surprise encore." Folds' encore was catered to older fans, and the majority of songs played were from Ben Folds Five's Whatever and Ever Amen. He started off with "Kate," then moved onto "Fair," which featured an unconventional melodica solo. The audience started dancing when "Rockin' the Suburbs" played, and Folds stopped playing so the crowd could yell "fuck" at the top of their lungs at the appropriate time.
Not one to simply play songs exactly as they were recorded on the album, Folds improvised lyrics and changed genres. Folds performed "Rockin' the Suburbs" in a Jimmy Buffett-esque way, and then quickly stopped, saying, "That's disgusting." He also played the song with a melodramic piano feel and jokingly said he should have put it on the latest album that way. Folds included the audience in many things as well, such as during "Army," in which it was obvious that Truman and Mizzou students were not studying fine arts, for they could not maintain the rhythm of the trumpet instrumental solo.
After about a two-hour set, Folds had to part.
"It's that time of the night where it's time to say goodbye," Folds said before his final song. A marching snare drum played, the surreal frown faces returned and Folds sang "The Frowne Song." The performance ended with Folds jumping atop his piano, belting his fake, but hilariously enjoyable, song.