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Ben Folds


Ben Folds with Rufus Wainwright

August 5, 2005 @ Bank of America Pavilion

Although nursing a cold, Ben Folds played in front a packed house at the Bank of America Pavilion by Boston’s recently developed seaport. He electrified the crowd as he strutted on stage to the overture from Jesus Christ Superstar. Folds can sometimes seem insecure in his pasty, gawky frame, but thrives in a live venue. He started out with “Bastard” from his latest EP, Songs for Silverman. Fans sat down reluctantly during the slower tempo songs, urging Folds to play his earlier more rockin’ pieces. The highlight of the set was during “One Angry Dwarf,” when his fingers danced like Astaire over the keys. At the end of the song, he bounced his stool off the piano, banging out the last refrain as the stool rolled off the stage. His rap ballad nod to Dr. Dre lightened the mood when the crowd chanted in unison, “Bitches can’t hang in the street.” At the end of the set, he conducted the crowd to sing three part harmony and his musical fans loved it. Ben Folds walked off stage to boisterous ovation like he was Arthur Fiedler, and was probably already on a flight to his next summer tour date in Atlantic City when the cheering came to an end.

After a long intermission with a poor selection of refreshments, the show’s second set featured only Rufus Wainwright, who played hypnotic melodies on piano and acoustic guitar. Wainwright’s harmony with his sister sounded great during “Halleluiah.” “Memphis Skyline” and “Waiting for a Dream” also were a treat to hear live. Although he switched easily between each instrument, his music did grow a little tiresome before night’s end. The somewhat whiney lyrics accompanied with a southern drawl seemed out of place in a large outdoor venue. Fans who wanted to dance after the Ben Folds set, instead were coddled to sleep by Wainwright’s sentimental lyrics. The music did not pair well with Folds’ opening set and seemed more suited for a smoky jazz club or intimate piano bar.

These two artists carry themselves like heavy metal rockers, but their softer cores spur soulful lyrics. Wainwright’s instrumental talent, boyish good looks and quirky humor seemed no match for the bipolar musical genius of the Folds. It is refreshing to go to a concert where performers revel in improvisation. Musicians sometimes focus intently on their art as if they were in a recording studio rather than rocking the crowd. Although Ben Folds one hour set catered to sell his new album, he unleashes the monster within the piano to both new and old fans. While most listeners view the piano as a delicate and civil instrument, Ben Folds’ craft illuminates the gritty side of the piano. He keeps his audience engaged by striking a stark balance between beautiful harmonies and chaotic freestyle solos. This is likely why he continues to sell out each show even with mediocre album sales.

- Pratik R. Patel
© 2005 Pratik R. Patel


©2003-2005 Boston Beats





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