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Ben Folds

Release Date: 10.08.02
Record label: Epic
Genre(s): Rock

60 Music-Critic Score
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It Just Seems to Be Missing Something
by: bill aicher


It's been over two years now since Ben Folds Five broke up; a year ago the leading splinter of the shattered band, Mr. Ben Folds himself released his first album as a solo artist. It was a damn good show of talent, and even made a show at number six in our top ten albums of 2001. Immediately following the release of Rockin' the Suburbs, Folds embarked on a solo tour with a full backing band. It was sort of like Ben Folds five with a different "five," but it was a great tour (review). This tour was then followed by another tour, this time of simply Ben Folds and a piano.


Throughout the history of Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five, there has never been a live album released (apart from their Sessions DVD). This is quite surprising since most fans will tell you there's nothing quite like a Ben Folds live show; and for the most part that's true. So, it's damned exciting that finally there's a live release.


Culled completely from the Ben Folds and a Piano tour, Ben Folds Live is unfortunately not the spectacle one would hope for. True, Ben Folds is a stellar pianist and showcases his talents thoroughly throughout the disc, but the big problem here is that the majority of these songs were written for a band, not for a solo piano. For the most part, there seems to be something missing here. Holes are holes, and while Folds does his best to fill them, sometimes the songs seem a bit empty.


But it's not all bad either. Fans of Folds will be delighted by the new arrangements of some of their old favorites, including "Best Imitation of Myself" and "The Last Polka," as well as newer songs like "Jane" and "The Luckiest." The addition of a stunning version of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," the b-sides of "One Down" and "Emaline" and the previously unreleased "Silver Street," make the disc all the merrier.


Yet, as previously mentioned, there are the problems. "Army" seems clever at first, with Folds directing the crowd to sing the song's missing horn parts, but really it's just annoying. And "Rock This Bitch"? It hardly rocks with Folds and his piano alone, but then again maybe that's the whole point.


The biggest treasure here, however, is the included DVD sporting about 30 minutes of live concert footage. Actually watching Folds do his thing does give the music a bit more credence, and makes the CD much more enjoyable upon later listens.


Either way, Ben Folds fans will eat this disc up. Unfortunately it seems more as a grasp at fleeting fame than anything else. Nostalgia is nice, but cashing in on past popularity is another thing.
01-Dec-2002 5:22 PM