I have seen Ben Folds numerous times in concert live, and have enjoyed each show immensely, except for one…maybe. Last night, however, I saw Ben Folds in a new light. Sure, the music was the same, it sounded much like the Philadelphia Philharmonic show and the WASO DVD, but it is very interesting going to a concert of your favorite artist with someone who hasn’t even really heard of the guy before and having that person enjoy it as immensely as you do. Goes to show that me saying Ben Folds is a great showman and more people should know about him is true, at least in this case. Again, thanks for coming with me to the concert and I am glad that you enjoyed it.
To begin this review, we should first discuss the great city of Boston. You are a great city, Boston, but you sure have a weird way about you when it comes to driving around. Sure, I got a little lost and tried to find my way around and eventually got fed up and just parked. So it is not necessarily Boston’s fault that we had to walk a mile or so to Symphony Hall, but it sure would be nice to have a sign that would have said: “Hey, Symphony Hall is not that far from here. Really. You should just keep driving and park in the garage nearby instead of walking past 47 different colleges.” But that’s just me. I come from a place that has signs telling you exactly where you are going.
Once we got to Symphony Hall, however, I was amazed by the place. Everything sounded really great, and my seats were much closer to the stage than I figured they would have been. We were about 10 rows back, a little to the left of Ben’s piano, which allowed me to watch his fingers work their magic through the whole concert. It was the closest that I have been to Ben Folds since the concert at Western, and the inner band geek in me enjoyed being able to watch all the orchestra members do their thing.
We got to Symphony Hall around seven for an eight o’clock show. We decided to just go in and sit, especially after the little bit of a walk that we had to take to get there. Good thing we went in when we did, because the opening band, Family of the Year, began playing at around 7:30 or so, playing a few songs. Yet again, a great group to open for Ben Folds, following in the mold of Julia Nunes, Missy Higgins, and Gavin DeGraw. I saw them described somewhere as a folk band, but they still rocked.
After them, of course, Ben Folds and the Boston Pops came out to pay. Thanks to the wonder that is Twitter, I actually have a set list without having to remember it. There was only one song that I did not know the title for, and that was because it was one of his new tunes with Nick Hornby, which sounds like it has potential to be a pretty decent album based on the two songs he played from it. Enough chatter; on to the set list and thoughts:
1. Effington – Ben started the show with a song from “Way to Normal,” his most recent studio album. I like the song, and it sounded great with the Pops.
2. Lullabye – An underestimated song in my opinion from an overlooked Ben Folds Five album. I have always like this song.
3. Smoke – A great song for the orchestra, and he played this in Philly and it is on the WASO DVD too. From “Whatever and Ever Amen.”
4. All U Can Eat – For some reason, some people think this is a political song, though he explained at the concert that it was just a collection of random thoughts spoken by his father at various time and was never intended to be political. This song was from the Sunny 16 EP.
5. The Ascent of Stan – What’s not to love about a song about a hippy?
6. Landed – The first single off of “Songs for Silverman,” it is about connecting with someone after being in a long relationship with someone else.
7. Zak and Sara – I’ve always liked this song. It is always better live.
8. Gracie – Not really a favorite of mine, but can’t really complain about a song the guys wrote for his daughter.
9. Cologne – As it was explained at the concert, he “wrote” this song while high on codeine at a concert, singing about what was in the news that day. In the news that day was the astronaut that drove from Texas to Florida wearing some space diapers so she could kill her estranged boyfriend and his lover.
10. Jesusland – An attack on the Religious Right? Or how Jesus seems to appear in suburban towns across the country? I don’t know. Good song though.
11. Not the Same – A song about a guy who gets high on LSD and climbs a tree at a party and comes back down a born-again Christian. Good stuff.
12&13. Two songs from the upcoming, “nearly completed” corroboration between Nick Hornby and Ben Folds. Hornby wrote some lyrics, and Ben put some music to them. The second song was called “Belinda.” Didn’t catch the title of the first one.
14. Steven’s Last Night in Town – Another favorite of mine from the Ben Folds Five days, done Big Band style with the orchestra. Very good.
15. Fred Jones, Part 2 – I have always wondered what is Fred Jones, Part 1, because I think that song would be pretty interesting based on Part 2.
16. Narcolepsy – Another great song from the Reinhold Messner CD from the BFF days. Also is better with the full orchestra and the opera guy singing the last bit.
17. One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces – This is one of the first BFF songs that I ever heard, and it is still one of my favorite songs. So angry and also very Big Band-ish with the orchestra.
Then, on to the THREE encores:
1. The Luckiest – This used to be a favorite song of mine, but I must admit that this concert was the first time that I had listened to the whole thing since the Philly show. Great song and has been used in probably thousands of weddings. Dedicated it to his wife and said it was written for her.
2. For the second encore, he did a little of “Rock This Bitch,” making fun of the orchestra members for spending their formative years playing instruments and not learning how to do normal things like kiss girls or talk to people. This was followed by “Army,” the ultimate audience participation song. He didn’t even have to tell us what to do; we had enough folks there that knew how to sing the horn part from the middle part of the song. Good times.
3. Finally came out and ended with “Rockin’ the Suburbs“. Every time that I have seen Ben Folds live, his piano work astounds me. This song is no exception, though just one time I would like to see him actually play guitar on the song like the album version.
Overall, it was close to two hours of pretty non-stop music. I think this was my second favorite Ben Folds show after WestFest at Western Connecticut, though this one is really close to surpassing this, partly for the reason mention in the first paragraph. And as I told my company for the night after the show, this is when the depression kicks in, since I don’t know when I will be seeing Ben Folds again. But it can’t be soon enough.