Ben Folds | 10.16.2008

bfcrop.jpgPlaying to a packed audience, Ben Folds gave a sellout-worthy performance at the Pageant.



The Pageant, St. Louis





Playing to a packed audience, Ben Folds gave a sellout-worthy performance at the Pageant. This tour is quite the interesting one. Folds and band have creatively conjured a way to tap into the viral power of the internet by “leaking” their new album, Way To Normal, out to the masses prior to its formal release date. The brilliant part is this leaked version was actually a “fake” – an impromptu album composed in one day, with each song of the “fake” album titled with the same name as its “real” counterpart.

Folds and company graced the audience with a few of these “fake” and “real” songs, deeming it a nice “musicology lesson.” The beauty of haphazard composition is that the true candor of a musician is bound to come out. In the case of Folds and his fellow musicians, this candor is most definitely infused with a sincere element of humor. The fake song, “Dr. Yang” was written about a lovesick guy who consults with a doctor to cure his ailment of breakup, requests Dr. Yang to call her because his number was blocked due to restraining order. My personal favorite “Bitch Went Nuts,” is a song about a conservative-frat boy, recent law school graduate who is ambitiously trying to make partner in the firm he started working in. He decides to bring his girlfriend to an office party, who just so happens to be a cokehead-left-wing crazy liberal, and thus ruins his chances for advancement.

It’s rare to hear a set that consists of only new music, but Folds did exactly this, announcing early in the show that he would perform old songs during this secret industry thing that musicians do after the audience thinks that the show is over. He delivered on this, performing a number of classics from the Ben Folds Five days (“Fair”, “Kate” and “Army”) and other gems such as “Rocking the Suburbs” and “You to Thank.”

The performance provided an extra set of visual and acoustic elements that made the show an entirely unique experience. Projected onto a drop cloth behind the band, nearly every song had a set of imagery that allowed the audience to experience the music on an entirely different plane. Acoustically, Folds was in great form, providing innovative piano techniques rarely heard in pop music. One song included Folds reaching into the piano and physically muting its strings with his hands while playing, while another involved two cans of Altoids, a rubber contraption and a distortion pedal, which produced the coolest sound I think I’ve ever heard come out of the instrument.

Along with these elements, Folds incorporated some extra quirky additions to the show that so accurately reflect the sense of humor portrayed in his music. “The Frown Song,” both “fake” and “real” were performed with actors on stage wearing giant “frowney-face” masks. The “fake” version was performed as the show’s closer, and many have claimed it better than the “real” version. However, the keytar solos of the frowney faces in the “real” “Frown Song” might spark some debate.

All and all, the performance was a stellar example of musicianship from an extremely talented group of performers. Ben Folds never fails to deliver, and this was definitely the case for this Pageant performance. |Sheila Shahpari

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