By Jim Fusco:
We now deviate from our regularly scheduled program…
In an unprecedented move, the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover songs music video blog brings you TWO concert reviews in one weekend! Tonight, I’ll review last night’s Ben Folds concert at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, CT.
There’s so much to say about this concert- really unlike any other Ben Folds experience I’ve had. For one, he played the entire show (with the exception of a couple of songs in the middle) with a band- something I really haven’t seen before. Those who know my musical tastes know that having Ben play with a band (rather than just doing the whole show by himself) is definitely preferable. The songs sounded just like the originals, with the drummer and bassist singing the harmony parts on all the old Ben Folds Five numbers. There was also another multi-instrumentalist / percussionist and another person I couldn’t see from my vantage point that played keyboards and French horn.
My fiancee and I had a nice night out on the town- the Shubert Theater is in the heart of the city. And even though the surrounding area is a little…well, not so perfect…the inside of the theater was very nice. We had GREAT seats, which is funny, because I bought them no more than four days ago online. We sat in the eighth row on the floor, off to the side a bit. The tickets were a lean $34.50, plus a TON of taxes and fees that brought them over $45 a piece.
Now, the show Ben Folds put on was great, but getting there wasn’t so much. He had an opening act- God help me if I could remember the name. They were okay- kinda quirky and VERY Ben Folds Five-ish. The problem was that the songs were kind of middle of the road and, more than anything, the songs were WAY too “deep” for an opening act. I even noted that a couple of the songs had similar lyrics, meaning that the songs came from an album that had a deeper meaning and were meant as part of a bigger picture. Again, it didn’t really fit well with “opening act”.
They started at about 8:30. After their set, we waited for about twenty minutes or so, then it was time…
For ANOTHER act to come on first!
This time, it was the “only rock/pop a capella group at Yale” and now I know why. They were TERRIBLE. I was embarassed the whole time. No one there had a good singing voice- the girl they picked to sing the second song of three (who was CLEARLY picked because she was the least “brainiac” looking of them all) couldn’t carry a tune if it was strapped to her back. They sang two songs no one in the audience never heard of before (complete with two tall Asian guys beat-boxing) and then finished up with a slightly-entertaining version of Ben Folds Five’s “Underground”. The problem with their version was that no one’s voice was strong enough to really make it sound like the original was sung (the two girls they had singing the chorus were barely audible from the eighth row) and the guy singing lead was annunciating every single word! It’s not, “And now it has been ten years, I am still won-der-ing who to be.” You had to be there to get how funny it was, but believe me, it was like a comedy routine.
That was followed by an announcement saying that Ben was coming out with a new album (!!!)…only to get let down by the fact that it’s an album of performances by a capella college groups! Ugh, talk about an album I’ll miss. I’m almost absolutely certain that this will end up on Chris’ TV stand in the near future, though.
After that act was done…we waited. And waited. And waited some more.
Finally, about 9:30 or so, Ben came out on the stage with his band. The band didn’t really seem into the music all that much, but it’s probably because they were trying to act cool. Ben was his usual lively self- kicking the piano bench away and singing better than I’ve ever heard him.
He played an interesting set anchored by tracks off his past two albums, “Way to Normal” and “Songs for Silverman”. He played songs like “Effington”, “Dr. Yang”, and “Free Coffee”, which are NOT some of my favorites. Although, I do have more respect for “Free Coffee” now because that terrible sound on the piano is actually made by putting empty Altoids boxes on the strings and adding a distortion pedal. These songs sounded exactly like the recordings.
He also played some better ones from “Way To Normal”, including “Hiroshima” and “Brainwascht”.
His “Songs for Silverman” list included “Bastard”, “Jesusland”, “Sentimental Guy”, and “Landed”.
One thing I noticed about this show was the pre-determined setlist. He really had it down, like a regular concert. There was no wasting time after he got on- each song ended, then the next one began about five seconds later, with no introduction. I mean, he talked enough, though- made a few jokes, had the audience sining (hilariously, at points) on my favorite song, “Not the Same” and “Army”, and seemed very happy.
He looked good, too- not all crazy-haired and everything. He looked happy and healthy, which is good to see. His show was an hour and a half, but the encore was only one song (a great one in “Fair”, especially with the band) because he said they ran out of time. I think the delay from starting the concert may have been from him “dueling pianos” with someone at Toad’s Place in New Haven, which he mentioned a couple times during the show. I think he came back to the Shubert late! He had to get a Band-Aid for his finger after playing the piano so hard at Toad’s. Both Ben and the opening act commented on how great the sound at the Shubert was- said it was the best sound on the tour. That theater is built for having great acoustics, so I can see why.
It was a great show and everyone left happy. There were a lot of younger teens there, too, which is nice to see. Everyone seemed to love the songs off of “Rockin’ the Suburbs” the most, seeing that it was a popular album. In classic Dylan fashion, he didn’t play his most (and only) famous song, “Brick” or another crowd favorite, “One Angry Dwarf”. He played a crazy alternate version of “The Bitch Went Nuts”- I never heard it before and the only similarity between the one he released on “Way To Normal” was the title line. I kinda liked the song he played last night better.
I’ll definitely go see him again next go-around, and I hope he comes out with another album to add even more variety to the setlist.