Stellar.

Ben Folds

Photos and review by Merideth C.

Ben Folds is one of the best singer/songwriters in the business. What really sets him apart live is how comfortable he is interacting with the crowd and how charming he is. The show on Thursday night in Detroit was a wonderful mix of pop rock, modern classical music, storytelling, and jokes.

The show began with the 6 member New York classical ensemble yMusic on stage playing their “Beautiful Mechanical”. Ben Folds and drummer Sam Smith took the stage with the title track from last year’s “So There”. Folds sat center stage behind a piano flanked by 3 members of yMusic on each side and Smith behind him. yMusic, who collaborated on “So There” and are touring with Folds, is made up of Rob Moose (violin), CJ Camerieri (horns), Gabriel Cabezas (cello), Alex Sopp (flute), Hideaki Aomori (clarinet), and Nadia Sirota (viola).

It didn’t take long for the antics to start. After the third song, “Long Way to Go”, Folds excused himself saying “I have to do something”, and pulled out a camera to take photos of Moose. He joked around like this throughout the night, getting the crowd to boo all of the members of yMusic and to boo his next song, among other things.

One of my favorite things about this show was the stories Folds was telling throughout. The best was when he talked about an earlier tour where he asked his audiences to spread rumors online after each show. He instructed them to write about him floating on stage, getting arrested, and even playing a song with Bill Clinton on saxophone while Kevin Spacey left with Folds’ former wife.

Most of the early songs of the night we from more recent Ben Folds albums, but the second half of the show was littered with classic Ben Folds Five tracks. It was wonderful to hear some of my favorite songs like “Song for the Dumped,” Steven’s Last Night in Town,” and “Army” accompanied by classical instrumentation. One of the best songs of the night was “Rock This Bitch”, a song that is improvised whenever it is played, with lyrics about having a 105 temperature during a previous Detroit show, how people without internet are probably happier than the rest of us, and buying a book in Detroit called “The Sexual Christian”.

Folds began the encore with “Evaporated” which I later learned was a request from a fan on twitter right before the show. The show finished with Folds standing on his piano and conducting the audience’s singing on “Not the Same”. He then ended by saying into the camera broadcasting live on Yahoo! Music, “If you’re not from Detroit then suck it”. He then dropped the mic and gestured to his crotch with both hands. The musicians then came together to bow as Pomp and Circumstance played through the overhead speakers.

This was my first time seeing Ben Folds and I hope it isn’t my last. It was an absolutely wonderful experience. Folds is a master on the piano. His ability to improvise with the other musicians is amazing. Even with his considerable talent and ability to mesmerize a crowd, he also let yMusic shine throughout the show and often turned the focus entirely on them. The mix of pop and modern classical music made this a memorable night that I won’t often forget.

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Set List

Download songs from this set list by clicking the iTunes icon!

  1. Beautiful Mechanical (yMusic)
  2. So There
  3. Long Way to Go
  4. Not a Fan
  5. Effington
  6. Phone in a Pool
  7. Mess (Ben Folds Five song)
  8. Music in Circles (yMusic)
  9. I'm Not the Man
  10. Rock This Bitch
  11. Erase Me (Ben Folds Five song)
  12. Song for the Dumped (Ben Folds Five song)
  13. Capable of Anything
  14. Steven's Last Night in Town (Ben Folds Five song)
  15. You Don't Know Me Encore:
  16. Evaporated (Ben Folds Five song)
  17. Army (Ben Folds Five song)
  18. Not the Same

Find out more about Ben Folds