Friday, October 17, 2008

Ben Folds

Abby and I went to see Ben Folds at the Pageant last night.  'Twas fun.

He had a 5-piece band (well, the fifth guy was behind a speaker and I only ever saw him play the triangle, but we'll count him anyway) and played his new album in its entirety (sans Errant Dog, I think) along with "fake" versions of Free Coffee, Dr. Yang, Bitch Went Nuts, and The Frown Song (also a song called Way to Normal, which is the name of the latest album, but is not on the album--more fakeness).  The fake song phenomenon is pretty entertaining--after they released the title and tracklist for the new album, they spent a day in Ireland writing and recording an entire album of stupid songs with the same titles which were subsequently leaked on the internet.

Of course things like this can bite you in the ass, as people that had downloaded the false versions and then fallen in love with them were disappointed when they finally got the album.  I'm assuming that the fake songs that they didn't play weren't worth playing, but the alternate versions: Dr. Yang (Lovesick Diagnostician) and Bitch Went Nutz hold up pretty well (I actually prefer the Bitch Went Nutz with a 'z' to the album version with an 's'--thankfully it's included on my album as a bonus track).

There were smatterings of older material--mostly held for the encores--which included Annie WaitsRockin' the Suburbs and Zakk and Sara from the RTS album, only a couple of tracks from Songs for Silverman, and some classic Ben Folds Five.  The only albums completely ignored were his EP's and the oddly experimental Fear of Pop, Vol. 1, which is near and dear to my heart... and probably no one else's.

The first encore (we were told to expect mostly new stuff, that the band would then leave the stage, "pretending like the show was over," and come back on to play older stuff) had some of the more obscure BFF tracks like Kate and Fair, and a raucous rendition of Army featuring the audience as horns.  We knew to do this, because we've all listened to Ben Folds Live.  It's a little erie, actually, that we're so well trained.  Nowhere was this more evident than on Underground (which was the whole of the second encore--and a lot of people missed it, largely because he'd been so tongue-in-cheek about the first one).  After the line "Now it's been 10 years, I'm still wonderin' who to be", we shouted back "Who the fuck are you?"

Which is what some guy did on a live recording of the song that can be found on BFF's Naked Baby Photos.  So, Ben Folds seems to be developing a Rocky Horror-esque appeal; how many other shows include audience shouts of "God, please spare me more rejection" and "Now we know whose been fuckin' the guru" amidst the ba-dap-bah's.

Humor was the overarching tone--including giant frowny faces during The Frown Song, and a demonstration of how to get the piano tone used on Free Coffee (without going into too many details, it apparently involves a brick, two Altoids tins and a distortion pedal).  And, of course, whenever Ben stood up from the piano we were treated to his geek-boy-tries-to-dance shuffle.

So it was a good show--okay, the opener was meh, and I must confess I'm not a huge fan of the new album, or the one that preceded it, but Ben Folds is a great showman and we were thoroughly entertained.


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