Review: A Night With Ben Folds

Ben Folds Pittsburgh

Ben Folds definitely does right by his fans.

This was my first time indulging in one of the “VIP Packages” that most pop artists do now. While some include nothing more than a buffet or “crowd free merchandise shopping” (a HUGE pet peeve of mine, a rant for another day) the one for Folds included a full evening’s worth of cool things.

The night started with a pre-show masterclass hosted by Ben for about two dozen of us “VIPs.”  Folds is well known to be a candid person when it comes to talking about music so it was no surprise that his answers were thorough and interesting. There were some great anecdotes, my favorite being how he turned down the chance to play piano on both “Drops of Jupiter” and “Your Body Is a Wonderland.”

After that was an all request soundcheck that included another two dozen people or so. I was totally bracing for the worst and expecting a room full of jackasses asking for “Brick” or “Free Bird” but I was pleasantly and thankfully surprised. “Gone” and “Smoke” were among the great deep cut gems that were asked for. By virtue of being in the front row and waiting for just the right time so I could be heard, he played a song I called out for – one of my favorites by him, “Boxing.”

Then came the real moment of truth. Despite a directive that Folds wasn’t signing autographs, only the So There songbooks given as part of the VIP package, I lugged my vinyl copy of Rockin’ the Suburbs to the Meet & Greet part of the night. Not only did he sign it, he seemed genuinely flattered that I brought it. Needless to say it is a keepsake that I will treasure forever!!

As if that all wasn’t enough, there was still the show itself. Even the pre-determined first set was loosely structured enough to allow Folds to improv and tell some hilarious stories. It ended with a seriously kickass drum solo on “Steven’s Last Night in Town.”

The second set was the gimmick of the tour where everyone in the audience was invited to throw paper airplanes with song requests on it. It’s a great idea but once again, you’re at the mercy of your fellow concert-goers who could be jackasses. Luckily the airplanes Folds picked up comprised a great set and a few even brought about great spontaneous moments of entertainment. There was the couple who complained about their seats so Folds invited them onstage for “The Ascent of Stan.” There was even a random guy who included on his airplane that he could play the cello on “Fred Jones Part 2” so Folds brought him up to sit in.

For all the great perks and swag that came with having the “VIP Package,”  watching Ben Folds play from the front row was what ultimately made the price of admission worth it. It was the kind of expert display of musicianship and entertainment that only on-the-job performance can convey.

Setlist:

Phone in a Pool
Annie Waits
Uncle Walter
Bastard
Still Fighting It 
So There
Landed
Not a Fan
You Don’t Know Me
Steven’s Last Night in Town 
——————————————-
One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces
Video
Wandering
Time
The Luckiest
The Ascent of Stan
Zak and Sara
Fred Jones Part 2
Army
Dog
Song for the Dumped
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Rockin’ The Suburbs

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