I discovered Ben Folds in eighth grade. I was watching television when the music video for "Army" came on and was so struck by its catchiness that I immediately set out to download more of his music on my computer. That's how I became a big fan of the quirky Folds and his swinging piano pop melodies.
I was slightly anxious going into Folds' show at the Paramount last night because there's nothing worse than going into a show as an admirer with high expectations and to not have those met. Fortunately, Folds turned out to be everything I'd hoped. Except that he's far shorter than I imagined he'd be.
Most of the near two hour set drew from both versions of Folds' 2008 album Way to Normal. The singer-songwriter explained to the crowd that he'd recorded fake versions of all its songs and leaked them on the internet prior to the actual album's release to give fans something to listen to. The problem, he lamented, was that many people later told him they preferred the prank material to the real stuff.
Folds demonstrated this by performing back to back renditions of "Dr. Yang." Then he left his piano, jumped off stage, and serenaded his fans with the fake track "Frown Song."
The North Carolina native later demonstrated how he'd achieved the percussive effect on yet another fake track, "Free Coffee"--by placing several Altoids cans on the piano strings. "I have to get it wedged in there properly," he explained, soon after snickering and adding, "That's what she said."
Folds' fake/real shtick was the evening's focus. And while it was entertaining, an example or two would have sufficed. Fans of Folds' 15-year plus career wanted to see more of his material from over the years. When he skipped the gimmicks, Folds rocked the piano with incredible showmanship--dancing and contorting into bizarre positions as he pounded the keys.
On the song that made me love him, "Army," Folds relied on the enthusiastic crowd to sing most of the lyrics, which they did so with gusto. The piano man offered a pleased grin to the crowd as they sang. And as a thanks, he improvised a song about Seattle's Pike Place Market, saying, "This is going to be a big hit. And everybody here gets an equal part of the copyright."
Folds and his accompanying band received a standing ovation. And I left with just one itsy regret about the evening: he didn't perform his hilarious cover of Dr. Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit." I'd prodded him to do so in an interview prior to the show and he'd agreed to indulge my request.
Ah, men and their empty promises... I still love him anyway. And I've included a video of his hilarious rendition below for your viewing pleasure.