Concert Wrap — Ben Folds, May 29 @ The AMP

May 30th, 2009 at 10:27 am

All photos by KEVIN KINDER, Northwest Arkansas Times

All photos by KEVIN KINDER, Northwest Arkansas Times

I didn’t think it was going to be this good.

No, not at all.

Not that it isn’t easy to recognize the talents of piano popster Ben Folds, who performed at the Arkansas Music Pavilion on Friday (May 29), because it’s clear from his decade-plus-long career that he has a knack for writing catchy ditties.

So maybe the crowd was slow to get warmed up. Or maybe it was the fact that his opening act, British group Rachel Unthank & The Winterset, were, with all due credit to their instrumental and songwriting prowess, dour.

A few songs in, I didn’t feel the enthusiasm for Folds as I did going into the show, considering I’d heard he was a solid live act. Sure, his talent was immediately evident on the keys, in this particular instance a black Baldwin grand, but something was missing.

Except then it wasn’t. And for the rest of the night, Folds proceeded to do his best to blow Fayetteville apart.

Click on the ‘more’ link below to continue reading about Ben Folds’ recent concert in Fayetteville.

It may have taken a little while for he or the crowd to warm up, but about the time he played “Landed” was right about the time he and his backing band starting rocking as hard as a band without a guitar can rock. Credit Folds, too, with knowing how to work a crowd. His set list just kept building, peppered with tracks new and old, until climaxing with the one two punch of “Rockin’ The Suburbs,” where Folds got the crowd to sing a curse world in the chorus so loudly it might have been heard as far east as Elkins and then with “Not The Same,” which saw Folds standing on his piano and conducting a three-part choir of voices from the 1,100 or so fans who came out on an absolutely perfect night, weather wise.

He played the tracks with an abandon at the piano, jumping about and using his still-a-kid-at-heart charisma to his advantage. That was never more evident than during a song we won’t publish the name of here (language alert!), but let’s just say it could be found here if you were really curious.

It’s a cover he does often, and about five words in, it was clear he wasn’t going to have to sing: The crowd was going to do that for him.

Because by the end of the night, he had the venue at his command.

A note about the opener: As previously mentioned, Rachel Unthank & The Winterset were perhaps a bit of a strange pairing for Folds.

Rachel Unthank, right.

I could appreciate their music and enjoy their string-heavy English folk songs, but not here. They are suited for clubs, for intimate gatherings, not as the opening act at an outdoor party. It’s telling when they mention that their songs are miserable (in the British sense of that word), then pledge to play a happier one, only to have it be a bit on the dour side, too.

Ben Folds set list, as best could be determined: 1) Another language alert… the song title is this; 2) Effington; 3) Dr. Yang; 4) *didn’t catch this one* 5) Free Coffee; 6) Annie Waits; 7) Alice Childress; 8) *didn’t catch this one* 9) Hiroshima; 10) Brick; 11) Jesusland; 12) Landed; 13) Errant Dog; 14) You Don’t Know Me; 15) Zak and Sara; 16) *didn’t catch this one* 17) Rockin’ The Suburbs; 18) Not The Same; 19) Bastard; 20) It was, (language!) this;

Encore: 21) Fair; 22) Army