Being a child from the 90's, I fondly remember hearing a piano in my alternative rock for the first time. The smart, catchy tunes of Ben Folds Five made an instant fan. The man himself made a stop into Birmingham's "newest" venue, the historic Lyric Theatre, and brought every ounce of charm with him.
The show opened with the recent two-time Grammy winner, Sarah Jarosz. With her silky smooth falsetto, and subtly powerful full on voice, her music fit perfectly in the setting of the old vaudeville theatre. A very capable guitarist (AND banjo, AND mandolin player) Jarosz captivated the crowd. She worked her way through songs from her latest release, "Undercurrents", and her ever popular Dylan cover, Ring Them Bells. After her set, I overheard many of those in attendance mention her latest accolades, no doubt only learning about them after a quick Google search. If they didn't know her before the show, they left the Lyric fans.
Ben Folds took the stage promptly at 9pm. Singing the words, "Get on with the show", from his song Phone in a Pool, Folds quickly grabbed the audience's attention, letting them know they were in for a special night. Folds spent the hour long set playing songs from his entire solo career, only playing a few old "Five" era tunes. Stopping to tell stories from the road, and the occasional quip to the drunk girl in the front (She asked him to join him at the bar for a drink. His response? "I'm kinda busy"), Folds drew the crowd in as if you were watching an old friend hammer out a few familiar tunes. A one point in the show, Folds conducted the audience in a stellar four part harmony on the song, Bastard, off his 2005 album "Songs for Silverman". He ended the set with the ever popular, You Don't Know Me, known as the duet he recorded with Regina Spector (The audience handled Spectors lines). Impressively, the first set ended EXACTLY an hour after it began. But not without a short set of instructions from Folds himself.
Folds told the audience he would return after a short intermission, but for us to grab a drink and a sheet of paper. We were to write down our song requests, and launch them, paper airplane style, simultaneously onto the stage. The visual of hundreds of paper airplanes, being flown by smiling fans, was a sight to see.
The set was to comprised of ten songs, chosen completely at random by Folds. And wouldn't you know it, the first one was a gushing letter from an admiring fan, and a twitter request, which of course sang aloud. Folds weaved through songs by his old band, and others like Hall & Oats, his rendition of George Michael's Careless Whisper, and Ke$ha (yes....Ke$ha). After many in the crowd insisted on yelling out song requests, the night ended with the crowd finally getting their way and Folds played his hit song, Army. (Respect the process, guys!)
He returned for one more, as many were leaving the theatre, playing the song that kicked off his career, One Angry Dwarf.
The wit and charm filled the theatre almost as much as the fan's voices, as they sang along to songs from their youth. Ben Folds is a living legend in his own right, and the cool thing is, I think he knows it. And that ok with me.
Phone in a Pool
Uncle Walter (Ben Folds Five song)
Still Fighting It
Not a Fan
A Million Years From Now
Do It Anyway
Capable of Anything
You Don't Know Me
Kylie From Connecticut
Rockin' the Suburbs
Sleazy (Kesha cover)
Brick (Ben Folds Five song)
The Last Polka (Ben Folds Five song)
Rich Girl (Hall & Oats cover)
Emaline (Ben Folds Five song)
Careless Whisper (George Michael cover)
Army (Ben Folds Five song)
One Angry Dwarf (Ben Folds Five song)