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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: thomas rensink

Musical artists Ben Folds and Duncan Sheik played in Madison at the Barrymore Sunday, November 24th. The show opened with Sheik and synth guitarist Gerry Leonard, playing electric and acoustic guitar based songs including the well-known radio hit “Barely Breathing.” Sheik’s smooth falsetto complemented the two guitars and sounded as good live as recorded.

Following Sheik’s performance, a single Baldwin Grand Piano was set on stage, and solo performer Ben Folds soon followed. With great musical depth and ingenuity, Folds produced a sound that is rarely matched by solo performances. Using an array of creative methods to deliver a full band effect, he rearranged previously recorded songs for solo piano and used tricks like invoking the audience as back up vocals for instrumental parts and using the damper pedal as a kind of percussive technique. To complete the one-man show, Folds showed his varied talents as he transitioned in one song to a drum solo and finished on the piano without a pause. For the duration of the concert, he performed almost exclusively by request with familiar songs like “Brick,” “Emaline,” “Rockin’ the Suburbs,” and “Song for the Dumped.”

Although widely considered a pop artist, many of Ben Folds’s songs included musical influence from often untapped resources. His diverse musical repertoire included jazz improvisational solos, blues scales, modal harmonies, and even baroque sections at times, but never at the expense of his unique sound. Known for his physical performance technique and satirical lyrics, this concert was no exception. Lyrics included stories of bad break-ups, friends who had acid trips and became Born Again Christians, and Santa getting stuck in the chimney and dying, with lyrics “hurry up call my lawyer fast, ‘cause Mrs. Clause is gonna sue my ass!”

Don’t mistake Folds as a cheap musician who relies on off humor lyrics to gain popularity, however. Even in the face of breaking three piano strings within the first five minutes and leaving an “F” key useless, his improvisational skills proved this no challenge to complete the performance. In contrast to many musical artists, Folds played most of the songs with added segments and solos that won’t be heard on the recording, pausing during one tangent to elicit humor saying, “I just made that part up.” If ever there was a time when the word “virtuoso” should be used in the world of pop music, Ben Folds is probably the best candidate.

In the same flashy style that his performance came, Ben Folds exited with a black stretch limo outfitted with a hot tub and as many as five girls. All in all it made for a mind-blowing concert; maybe the best way to describe his live performance is simply “rockin’."
08-Dec-2002 9:40 PM


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