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Ben Folds

Ben Folds & a Piano
with special guest: Duncan Sheik
city: madison, WI
venue: barrymore theatre
date: 11.24.02

Ben Folds Pleases Crowd; Groupies Just Like Quite Riot Did
by: jonathan baran

Ben Folds is a genius; at least that is what openers Duncan Sheik and the legions of loyal fans that packed the Barrymore would like us to believe. While Folds’ status as pop rock god was certainly not proven, there is no denying the spell he is able to hold over a crowd.

Opening the show with “Don’t Change Your Plans” off of 1999’s Ben Folds Five release The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, Folds relied a surprisingly large amount on older Ben Folds Five material to fill the set list. But no one in the sold out crowd seemed to care about the Ben Folds Five nostalgia (things heard outside before the show “Dude, Ben Folds is good, but Ben Folds Five was way better.” “Oh no doubt about that one man”). More than two years removed now from the infamous former band, Ben continues to mature as a solo act and has nearly mastered the art of commanding a stage from behind a baby grand piano.

Folds has built his career by differentiating himself from and mocking the rock mainstream, dating back as far as “Underground” from the Ben Folds Five 1995 debut all the way to last years hit “Rockin’ The Suburbs” off of his solo debut of the same name, and he managed to avoid the typical rock show crowd pleasing clichés. Instead he managed to make an actual connection with the crowd, sometimes playing as jukebox to the audience, stopping mid-sentence during inter-song banter to break into a request, and even taking an extended break between songs to sign several autographs for a very verbal, very young fan in the front row.

In between the request playing Ben found time to squeeze in a sizable chunk of songs from every Ben Folds Five album, but hardly dented his work as a solo artist. While the deep catalogue of Folds’ work can be described as inconsistent at best, his ability to please a live crowd is second to none, and his talent for doing so seems to be growing with each successive tour. No one was even offended when Ben proudly proclaimed he would be riding home in a stretched limo with five beautiful women, cuz hey, that’s just how Quit Riot did it.
08-Dec-2002 9:40 PM


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