Thursday, October 23, 2008

Concert Review: Ben Folds

"It's so weird to be back here."

Let me get this out of the way first. I’m a pseudo Ben Folds fan at best. I dig the stuff by Five, Rockin’ the Suburbs is pretty good, and Songs for Silverman is okay. They’ve all got their moments. While I’m not a huge fan, I went in to this concert with some decent-sized expectations. This is his third show here, so he’s got to be doing something right. Plenty of my friends have seen him before and all of them came back with shining reviews, so I figured I’d be in for the same. Real quickly, Missy Higgins was a good opener. Nothing I’d listen to again, but it was a cute set and fit the piano-rock atmosphere. She was adorable to boot. Onwards to the main act.

Standing in the second row of people against the gate right in front of the piano, I was a bit confused by the whole silhouette, flashing lights, and corny eighties intro. I know it was probably meant to be cheesy to the point of being humorous, but it came off as just cheesy. The first half of the set was pretty heavy with songs from his new album, Way to Normal. This totally makes sense as it was just released less than a month ago. That said, it doesn’t make the songs any less worse. Okay, that’s a bit harsh. Way to Normal isn’t terrible; it’s not even really bad. However, it’s mediocre for a Folds album and was a bit of a disappointment.

I just couldn’t get in to many of the new songs, and it was only made worse every time we had to hear an alternate version from their “fake leak” (for those not in the know, the band recorded joke versions of songs off the new album and leaked them early as a prank). I’ll give it to him; some of them are delightfully bad while others are better than their “real” version, but hearing two fairly similar songs in the same concert and even back to back occasionally was just too much. Another letdown came when I saw “Hiroshima”, one of the better cuts off …Normal, on the set list, but apparently it got cut for something else. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the night came when the band played, “Landed”, one of my favorite Folds songs, only for this version they decided to half-ass it and remove any joy I could’ve had. Finally, the closer, while fun, was weak for a show ender.

Alright angry Ben Folds fans, you may be out for blood at this point, but put the torches and pitchforks down. I actually enjoyed the show and thought it was a pretty good time. As many negative things that I’ve said, I was very impressed every time he dipped into his older catalogue. I’ve always had a soft spot for Whatever & Ever Amen, so “Kate” was nice and “Fair” was incredible. Even the major hits that I’ve sort of tired of like “Rockin’ the Suburbs” and “Zak and Sara” were a treat to see. I have to give it to him on the Altoid-assisted “Free Coffee” too. That was just plain cool. Ben is a very energetic, little fellow. Watching him play was a blast, because he loves what he does and he’s very good at it. While I may not dig the new songs very much, he’s still an incredibly talented pianist. In the end, was it worth the seven bucks? Easily. Far from incredible, but at least it was fun.

Ben Folds gets a Joe Sixpack moustache (3 outta 5).

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