Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ben Folds captured live at the Calvin last Saturday

Sheryl Hunter of the Hartford Courant reviews Ben Folds show at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton on Saturday, October 3rd. Photos by Dave Barnum.

A guy sitting alone at a piano. That does not seem to bode well for an exciting night of music, unless that guy is Ben Folds.

Folds played a sold out show at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton, Mass., Saturday night, captivating the enthusiastic audience from the very first note of "Free Coffee," a song off his latest release, "Way to Normal."

From the sweeping sentiment of "Luckiest" to the biting bitterness of "Bastard," the former Ben Folds Five front man selected material from all of his albums, serving up a two-hour show of his various styles and moods in the process.

Dressed in a T-shirt and plain pants, Folds may be 43 and on his fourth marriage, but he still looks like a geeky teenager. He is a naturally funny guy and one whose smart, humorous lyrics and brilliant piano playing compensated for the lack of a band. The crowd sang along during the upbeat "Zak and Sara" and clearly appreciated the snarky satire of "Jesusland."

Folds is currently writing songs with author Nick Hornby, and performed three of them: "Picture Window," "Belinda" and "Levi Johnston's Blues." The latter, written from the perspective of the father of Bristol Palin’s child, was hilarious.

The audience roared with approval when Folds brought opener Kate Miller-Heidke onstage to sing the Regina Spektor part on the catchy "You Don't Know Me," Folds' current single.

When performing, Folds attacks his piano with gusto, even pushing the stool out from behind him as he pounded the ivories during "Effington." He insisted that the rocker "Dr. Yang" did not work as a solo piano piece, but the way he ran his hands his up and down the length of keyboard as he banged out the low notes with his left hand suggested otherwise. Folds' classical training made the introduction to "Narcolepsy" another highlight.

At one point, Folds broke the pedal on his grand piano, bringing the show to a standstill as two crew members worked on a repair. Folds, stripped of his instrument, pulled out all the stops with an acappella version of a Dr. Dre obscenity-laden rap.

Once the piano was repaired, he rocked out on "Army," ad-libbing a few lines about the broken instrument. He closed with "Not the Same," ending the show by frantically conducting the crowd in singing harmony. He returned to the stage for a lively encore of "Rockin the Suburbs."

Native Australian Kate Miller-Heidke impressed the crowd with her 30-minute opening set that showcased her sharp sense of humor and powerful vocals.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great show!! :)