Friday, December 19, 2014

Ben Folds And The MSO

Ruth, Danny and I jumped at the opportunity to get tickets to see Ben Folds live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at Hamer Hall months ago when they went on sale.  This Australian tour has Ben playing with the local symphony orchestra in each city he's stopping in, which must be a huge undertaking to organise.  The evening began humorously as Ben's friend Keir Nuttall came out on stage pretending to be him (they look a bit similar) and started to sing the opening song "Effington."  Ben soon appeared and told him to go before continuing with the number.  The set list contained songs from throughout Ben's career and he told stories about the origins of each one before launching into them.  Highlights of his solo material included "Landed," "Cologne," and the song he wrote for his daughter, "Gracie."

Seeing these songs played with a symphony orchestra was such a special treat.  I was particularly happy to hear some Ben Folds Five tracks, including "Smoke," "Brick," "Steven's Last Night In Town" and "One Angry Dwarf And 200 Solemn Faces" as the jazz origins of the songs really allowed the whole orchestra to shine.  He even played the first verse of "Cigarette," which was based off of a very long run on sentence in a newspaper article, before launching into its companion piece, "Fred Jones, Pt. 2."  We were very fortunate to get to hear the first two movements of a piano concerto he took a year to write, and he also brought out special guest Kate Miller-Heidke to join him to sing the duet "You Don't Know Me." 

In the encore someone shouted out for "Rock This Bitch," which is where Ben creates a song on the spot.  The audience member gave him the title of "Cheating Asshole" for this one, and as he built the musical parts with each section of the orchestra someone was googling the phrase backstage to find a poem of that title that would end up being the lyrics.  It was amazing to watch it all come together, and Kate even came out to sing along with Ben.  Although they could have easily finished the evening then and there, the official last song of the night was an epic version of "Narcolepsy" featuring a tenor on some of the vocals.  All in all it was a pretty amazing show and really great that Ben feels so strongly about the importance of symphony orchestras that he continues to do shows like these all around the world.

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