[Concert Review] Ben Folds: Live in Bloomington, IN

I know I tend to get over excited after I’ve seen a live show, and I come out gushing about how truly bad ass the show actually was to the poor bastards who couldn’t or didn’t want to go. Last night, filing out of the IU Auditorium, I again felt this bonery affection having watched the amazing Ben Folds.

I’ve been a fan of his since before I had pubes, and that my friends, was a long, long time ago. At that time, I was a fan of his band Ben Folds Five, and then once he went solo, I followed him there as well. This show was for fans just like me, who have heard all his songs and loved his music during our awkward and formative middle school careers.

Opening the show was the absolutely phenomenal Kate Miller-Heidke, and she showed a range that I have never seen live before. She was a bit folksy, but she had a tongue in cheek song writing style, and she floored the crowd during her set. She is the only opening act I have ever seen receive a standing ovation, and it was much deserved. Her set was fun and impressive all at the same time. She had a wonderful stage presence, and really captivated the audience. She was a fun way to start the night.

When Folds unassumingly took the stage, accompanied only by a huge ass piano, I knew we were in for a fun night. He played for nearly two hours, busting out songs from his entire catalog. He even played three as of now unreleased tracks, one of which, called “Belinda,” he had never played live before. It’s always fun to be a “first” for someone you’re a fan of.

The thing about Folds is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He knows what brought him to the dance. He knows how to feed a crowd exactly what they want, while still varying the set greatly. He played songs from the Ben Folds Five days, many more than I expected. Favorites like “Narcolepsy,” “Army,” and “Kate”.

Having been to a huge rock show on Friday night, it was interesting to see a much more intimate show so soon after. The Indiana University Auditorium has fantastic acoustics, and I was able to clearly hear everything Folds was saying. Which was a treat, because the guy is freaking hilarious. At one point, he began to freestyle piano, and came up with a unique song about Bloomington that was a lot of fun to follow along with.

There were so many unique elements to the show. First of all, it was really JUST Ben Folds. There wasn’t another soul on that stage, (with the exception of a one-song duet with Kate Miller-Heidke). I was on the floor and had a fantastic perspective of him, and he had a smile on his face for the duration of the show.

Another unique element is the crowd involvement Folds evokes from the crowd. Not just the standard sing-along you find at concerts, but he actually put the crowd the work. At one point, he stood up and acted as a conductor, breaking the crowd into segments and giving them specific parts to harmonize, and I have to say, the audience sounded pretty damn good. It was a lot of fun to see him up their conducting us, and that is the first time I have ever seen a musician do that.

He ended the set with his rendition of the Dr. Dre song, “Bitches Ain’t Shit.” It was obvious, as he mentioned, that he didn’t really want to play it, but the crowd (specifically douchebags) kept yelling for it throughout the show. He mentioned how often he’d tried to “retire” the song live, but that the thing seemed to have a life of its own, and people keep demanding it. This could’ve been a ploy, but he did play it, and he didn’t phone it in. Even if he was tired of the song, he gave it 100%, and again, the song was very fun to hear live.

Final Words:

Ben Folds has been, and will always be a personal favorite of mine. I was delighted to finally get the chance to see him live, and at a venue like the IU Auditorium (with wonderful seats, thanks Kristina!) it was a real treat. The set was fun, lively, and full of songs I know and love. He had the audience in the palm of his hand, and really seemed to be having fun behind the keys up there. He sounded great, clear and fun, and his passion translated to a very passionate audience. He was a true stage general, busting his ass, pleasing the crowd, and sending everyone home happy. Can’t ask for much more than that from a live show.

Buy a Ben Folds Five Poster

Score: 9.5/10 (Amazing)

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