With a Little Help from His Audience

April 12th, 2010

Ben Folds and a Piano – The Wellmont Theatre – April 9, 2010

Ben Folds and a Piano - The Wellmont Theatre - April 9, 2010
While Ben Folds and a Piano is a technically accurate title for the piano-rocker’s current tour, I suggest an amendment along the lines of Ben Folds, a Piano and You. Akin to the relationship audiences have with movies like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Room, the crowd that filled The Wellmont Theatre on Friday night played a large role in the fun that Ben Folds brought. That role took shape early on with “Annie Waits,” during which the audience filled in the claps and backup vocals from the studio version without needing a cue.

Folds’ performance adopted a vibe similar to VH1’s Storytellers, starting with a story about Paul Simon appearing at one of his shows. That led to a hilarious sequence where he unsuccessfully tried to start “Sentimental Guy” before giving up and skipping to “Effington.” (“Only my audience would be sweet enough to applaud that.”) The set continued with some of Folds’ newest material, including two songs from a forthcoming release featuring lyrics by Nick Hornby. But he finished the show with a generous helping of songs from his Ben Folds Five days.

After finally sneaking in a successful version of “Sentimental Guy,” the show concluded with four of Folds’ most popular songs, two of which were the catalysts for the now-obligatory role his audiences play. After a brilliant version of “Philosophy,” he concluded his main set with “Army,” during which the two sides of the venue sang the dueling horn parts without needing direction. Then, following encore-starter “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces,” Folds finished with the most involved song of the night, “Not the Same.” Before playing the finale (while conducting the audience through a four-part harmony), the singer candidly stated, “I thought people would have been sick of this song ages ago, but everyone always sounds so good.” The standing ovation that followed proved just how much the audience still enjoys that sound, too. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Andy Keilen |