An evening with Ben Folds

By Nikki Panos Photos by Daniel Coston

November 5, 2015

Ben Folds performed Tuesday night at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, a gorgeous cultural venue which one should surely visit at least once while living in the Queen City. The audience, with a glass of wine or champagne in hand, behaved like a typical polite southern crowd during the opening acoustic duo– only half of the normally six-man band– which was led by singer Dotan.

The pair performed admirably, providing the audience smooth, soothing vocals whose sound tamped down the raw introspective subject matter the lead singer exposed regarding himself and his past. Primal noise accompanied some featured songs through a resounding, heartbeat like drumming, akin to some recognizable northern European contemporary folk music, conjuring sweet emotion. On their final and richest song, the band attempted to gather audience participation in a song about home, to which the audience hesitantly responded as one only can to a song they do not recognize and therefore have not yet formed affection towards. Although the attempt to energize the audience in anticipation for Mr. Fold’s arrival was not a complete success, Dotan proved to be a charming introduction to the main show.

Photos by Daniel Coston

Just prior to Ben Folds’ arrival on stage, New York group, yMusic, set up to give the final introduction and to join in for the entirety of the night. The group jaunted on stage to set up the main act, and immediately playful notes and energy burst forth. yMusic provided all the necessary bells and whistles for a classical symphony; cello, viola, a violinist with a Bob Ross fro and the talent to stand by it, brass out the you know, including a delightful flutist who provided most of the back up vocals, a trumpet, sax, horn, and of course, drums. Upon the intro’s conclusion, and with no grandiosity, Ben Folds took stage to join in. A true musician’s musician, the sounds of the evening were veraciously robust and erupting, a sound which the man himself has dubbed chamber rock.

Photo by Daniel Coston

What makes Ben Folds’ show so inviting is his conversational air; this is a man who you itch to chill with and talk life. While some kids did attend the show, this was a night meant more for an adult attendance, as Ben Folds talked openly about adult hobbies such as dropping acid and spewed big boy verbiage. Much of his music critiques human behavior through dry sarcasm and also provides some universal self reflection, which pretty much everyone has related to at some point in their lives.

Photo by Daniel Coston

What began as a simple friendly rapport with the Charlotte audience quickly grew to pure puppy love for Ben (can we call him Ben? it just feels right) as he shared his common North Carolina roots through jovial stories about familiar places and serenaded the crowd with long-adored songs. His most powerful song– boasting rock opera sentiment, Erase Me, evoked emotions of hurt and anger that anyone who has gone through a messy breakup can attest to. And just after boring into your soul, Ben instinctively seems to know how to lighten the mood with off the cuff lyrics about not understanding stage logistics, and encouraging yMusic to improv an entire song around just that small problem moment on stage when he got tangled in his mic cord. As stated before: pure puppy love. As the night wound down, and the final familiar “You Don’t Know Me” was completed, the band left the stage to the audience’s dismay, only to return for a much appreciated and lengthy encore. The encore itself served as a mini concert all its own, with three additional songs of varying emotive qualities. This is a man who truly appreciates his audience and is extremely aware of the sway he holds over his listeners in a playful yet respectful manner. His is a show truly worth attending.

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