Laura MusselmanBen Folds performed with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday, October

Laura MusselmanBen Folds performed with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday, October 20, at Benaroya Hall.Backed by a full orchestra and what looked to be every contract musician the Seattle Symphony has ever worked with on a crowded Benaroya stage, Ben Folds nearly drowned in his own creation. Rock stars setting their music to strings and brass and touring is nothing new. And much of the Ben Folds repertoire is conducive to it. Show opener “Zak and Sara” is belted by hipsters as if they were glee club members doing their favorite Rent numbers and “Steven’s Last Night In Town” is begging for trumpet.But Folds works best as the world’s greatest bar pianist. He makes up songs on the fly, has a knack for keyboard improvisation, and mocks himself and his friends for the audience. But when you boil it down, he’s actually got a very small voice. People sitting in the audience at Benaroya kept making mention that the vocals needed to be turned up. Way up. But more than being a small sound backed by a far-too-large orchestra, Folds just didn’t seem comfortable up there. Some of the audience’s favorite songs–“Rockin’ the Suburbs” and “Army”–weren’t turned symphonic. Instead, we had to suffer another rendition of “Brick”, a distinctly non-ironic downer of a song that really struggles to fit into a concert set.The whole show was really salvaged when, around 9 p.m., the Symphony left and Folds came back for a solo mini-set. He hit the favorites we missed, the audience got to its feet, and suddenly it was the Folds concert we all wanted to see. Ben Folds with the Symphony basically became the weak opening act for Ben Folds the headliner. Folds is full of good ideas; Has Been with Will Shatner was genius and some of his songs work great with orchestration. But when it comes to his life as a performer, he needs to stick with what he does best: hipster piano bar-style solo shows.