Ben Folds at Kentucky Center for Performing Arts (Louisville, KY 4/14/17)

Whether you are seeing Ben Folds solo, with his band “Ben Folds Five”, or with an entire orchestra, you surely won’t be disappointed with the performance. Last Friday, Ben Folds performed with the Louisville Orchestra composed by Teddy Abrams. To open out the night, Teddy and the orchestra performed a few pieces off their upcoming series of shows, “Festival of American Music II”. After finishing those pieces, Teddy hyped up the crowd with an orchestral cover of Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”. Then, it was time for Ben Folds to hit the stage.

Ben Folds opened his performance with a trio of songs off his most recent solo release, So There. This trio of songs included “Concerto for Piano Movement 1, 2, and 3”. These pieces were vocal-less orchestral pieces that Ben created as well as played piano on. The pieces ranged from four minutes to ten minutes long, with the first piece being the longest. “Concerto for Piano Movement 2” was my favorite of the three, as it had a mellower soft sound mostly throughout it. Parts of it reminded me of Hans Zimmer’s “Time”, which may have been why I loved it so much. An intermission was held after Ben and the orchestra finished the Concerto.

Following the intermission, Ben took the stage once again to do some more songs with the orchestra. This main set included more well-known songs such as “Landed”, “Not the Same”, “Zak and Sara”, and of course, “Brick”. The accompaniment of the orchestra made these piano hits very beautiful and intimate. However, my personal favorite song of the set wasn’t quite a hit song. This song is coined as “Rock this B****”, and is very popular within Ben’s shows.

“Rock this B****” is actually pretty interesting because he has been performing the song at almost every show since 2002, but each time he plays it, it is different and unique. During a live recording of his 2002 live album “Ben Folds Live”, an audience member yelled at Ben “rock this b****!”. Therefore, Ben decided to play a short improv song called exactly what you’d think. And ever since then, whenever an audience member yells that phrase during a show, Ben will go ahead and make a new improv song on the spot and perform it. Now this sounds a bit complicated when it comes to the shows he does with orchestras, and you’d be correct. Piece by piece, he tells each individual part of the orchestra what notes they should play as well as how they should play it. After ten to fifteen minutes, Ben and the orchestra was ready to play the new improv song he had just created. Accompanied by lyrics from “My Old Kentucky Home”, the whole feel and atmosphere for the song was very unorthodox and peculiar. Of all the concerts I’ve been to in the past five years, this moment was definitely the most creative thing I’ve ever seen.

The first encore consisted of two songs. He started the encore with “The Luckiest”, a song which perfectly conveys how one feels when he or she in in love. The encore closer was “Theme from Dr. Pyser”, an older more obscure Ben Folds Five song. The song was completely instrumental and had a sort of James Bond vibe to it. After that energetic finish, Teddy Abrams and Ben Folds took a bow and left the stage.

Despite what seemed like the end of the show, Ben surprised the audience and did an uncanny second encore. This encore included the first and only solo piano piece Ben did the entire night. This short second encore included “Army”, another older Ben Folds Five song. Unfortunately, Ben cut the song a little short so the orchestra could leave and go home since it was getting late.

Overall, I think seeing Ben Folds was an amazing experience from start to finish. He had a lot of audience participation and enthusiasm throughout the show, which definitely shined. The added orchestra made the show even better and beautiful rather than if it were just him playing the piano solo. My only complaint was the show felt very short. I feel as if Ben could have played longer if the orchestra hadn’t played a few of their own pieces before the show and post-intermission. If you get the chance to see Ben Folds in any setting or fashion, I definitely recommend it!

Setlist:

First Half

1. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Movement 1

2. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Movement 2

3. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Movement 3

Second Half

4. Capable of Anything

5. Landed

6. You Don't Know Me

7. Not the Same

8. Brick (Ben Folds Five song)

9. Rock this B****

10. Zak and Sara

Encore 1

11. The Luckiest

12. Theme From Dr. Pyser (Ben Folds Five song)

Encore 2

13. Army (Ben Folds Five song)

 

-Chatman