Shepherd’s Bush Empire
You know any show that Ben Folds plays will be pure gold. The only thing to debate when going to see Ben Folds live is what little tricks he might pull out of the bag this time around. Unfortunately, there was no ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit‘ at the Shepherds Bush Empire tonight. However, we had objects inserted under piano strings to distort the sound, dual synth and piano playing, a rogue tambourine man who graced the stage with his presence from time to time through the set, audience participation, piano stool throwing, anecdote telling, old-skool song playing, novelty new song playing, improvisation with amusing results… phew!
This set was almost two hours long and the Folds pulled out pretty much every ounce of enthusiasm, especially towards the end when the old-skool gems graced our ears. This man knows how to play the hits. ‘Underground’, ‘Kate’, ‘One Angry Dwarf’ followed in quick succession with the latter bringing the grand finale and rollicking with such lightning fast speed that the musicians onstage looked scared shitless.
It’s true that the average fan of Ben Folds is more… mature. However, this doesn’t effect the sheer energy of Folds and his musicians. The bassist plays chunky grooves flawlessly and the drummer is accomplished, if a little loose in his approach. Harmonies are tackled with finesse and the musicianship is pretty much astounding all round. Especially when the audience becomes involved in vocal harmonies with so much ease it’s a wonder that musicians don’t use their audiences more frequently.
The second half of the evening is definitely more exciting with the first half mainly comprising slower, more recent tunes. However well-received these may be (and they do go down a storm!) they will never top the poppier hits of ‘Rockin’ The Suburbs’, ‘Zak and Sarah’, ‘There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You’ and ‘Army‘. There’s brand new material too and new song ‘Benny Hit His Head‘ documents Folds walking straight off the stage in Japan and bleeding all over his piano. A little novelty perhaps but definitely a taste of the fun stuff to come.