Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Ben Folds, Sheffield Octagon: 13/06/05

Put down those tissues, no need to call the President, AnnaWaits is back and blogging.

Haha, ok, so work and a hectic production week (York DramaSoc's production of Steven Poliakoff's Sweet Panic) have got inbetween me and my laptop for a while, but if anything was going to get me blogging again, it was a long-awaited gig from my musical hero, North Carolina-born (but don't let that put you off...) Mr. Ben Folds.

Let me put this gig into context. I have been a fan of Ben since I first saw him on Q channel (this is the only reason I can tolerate its existance, it really is an awful music channel) back in 2001. He had his nose pressed up against the screen and was singing 'Y'all don't know what it's like being male, middle-class and white'. I was hooked. I instantly knew what he was all about - I knew he could really play all those instruments he plays in the 'Rockin' The Suburbs' video, that he was a funny and intelligent songwriter, that he was a complete geek. As my favourite Doctor frequently says on a Saturday evening - 'Fantastic!!'

Fast-forward to 2004 and I have all the albums, a few folders full of *ahem* unofficial releases, an 'Annie Waits'-inspired moniker and, to top it all, tickets for a gig the day after my birthday. Of course, Ben had to go an spoil it all by getting hospitalised with a severe respiratory infection (scroll to near the bottom). Sure, he got it from touring constantly because performing live gets him close to the fanbase he loves, but hey, that's no excuse. :)

So, fast-forward again to June 13th 2005 and you have, well Monday.

There's no point trying to do a *proper* review of this gig, the way I did for Rufus (and Rufus again...!) because, as I said, this is my hero. I can't be objective, I can't remember half of what was played (thank God for theSuburbs and its wonderful webmaster Andy). It was all 'a bit of a blur' as they say.

But enough procrastination, all that really matters is - was it worth the wait? Well of course it was.

It started off as a sit down gig, which was, you know, cool. Ben's getting on, he has a wife, and his twins Gracie and Louie and stuff....

"TELL 'EM TO STAND THE F*** UP, BEN!" Someone obviously wasn't having it. The crowd surges towards the stage and the whole room lifts, the happiness-factor (it exists!) is raised ten-fold. Ben smiles and nods like he's proud that his followers have come to join him - "The people have spoken!" he says, and starts rocking out to the fantastic 'You To Thank'. A few of the vastly-outnumbered audience members not of university age mumble about this having been advertised a 'sit down concert'. No-one cares. No-one cares because all eyes are fixed firmly on one middle-aged guy with thick-rimmed glasses breaking a piano as he hands round the Jammy Dodgers he's just ben given by a fan... a roadie comes on to sort the piano, but Ben's not one for silence. Maybe he'd have told us a story if we'd been sat down, as it is, he drums out the famous riff from Nina Simone's 'Baby Don't Care' and adlibs for a good five minutes, his awesome band jamming with him in an instant. 'Looks like I f*cked up my piano', he sings, and then: ''The folks in Sheffield stand like they hate to sit down'.

We all feel a little proud.

From then on, Ben plays like a man possessed. There's no introductions to songs, just the music. Tracks from 'Rockin' The Suburbs' have the entire audience singing along, just about in tune, and and are shown to be some of the strongest songs he's written. Unfortunately, such amazing piano-bass-drums renditions of 'Gone', 'Zak and Sara' and 'Losing Lisa' among others' show up something that I've been in denial about for a good four years - that 'Rockin' The Suburbs' (the album) is terribly over-produced. I've always liked the fact that RTS is so different from the work he did with Ben Folds Five, but this gig proved what Ben himself has come to realise - that piano, bass and drums is his voice. Lucky he's got such incredible bass (Jared Reynolds) and drums (Lindsey Jamieson) players with him now, then. Forget comparisons with Robert Sledge and Darren Jesse - Ben's new band are integral to what he's doing right now.

What was lovley to see was that Songs For Silverman' tracks were greeted like old friends. 'Jesusland' in particular got a huge cheer, but 'Bastard', 'Landed' and 'Trusted' all got great receptions too. It was an incredibly warm and generous crowd - shouts of 'We love you Ben!' punctuated the evening, and there was none of the constant requesting of 'Rock This B*tch' which has blighted many previous gigs. Instead, the crowd just seemed happy to have such a talent playing for them. When we were invited to request, however, there was of course no holding back. 'The Secret Life of Morgan Davis' was duly played - complete with a huge, adlibbed solo which had a strange trance-music tinge that had the audience ironically shouting 'ooo-wah ooo-wah', as if Ben was dropping beats at Creamfields. A bizarre and perfect moment. Riding the crest of a wave, a hardy soul at the front boldly requests 'Underground' - a huge fan favourite from the first Ben Folds album, which Ben is often a little reluctant to play solo, if only because the backing vocals are so important. But Ben just sits down, smiles and says 'yeah, I can play that'. If you give, you get back. 'I've not played that before on the tour', he says, 'but you guys are really great'.

We all feel a little smug.


Lisa Rullsenberg said...


Sounds like a fab time.

Mellie Bean said...


Great review, luv!

You make me smile (in the best possible way!)

Love and indestructable pianos,
Melanie :-)