Alison and I went to see Ben Folds last night at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pa. And, as usual, Ben was awesome and played for a little more than two hours.
Ben usually has really great opening acts. I saw Tegan and Sara open for him a few years ago at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J., just weeks before their song “Walking with a Ghost” (later covered by The White Stripes) from their 2004 CD “So Jealous” became a hit on adult album alternative (AAA) and college radio stations. When we saw Ben earlier this year in Montclair, N.J., the fantastic Australian singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke — who went on to contribute backing vocals on Ben’s new collaboration with author-lyricist Nick Hornby, “Lonely Avenue” — was the opening act.
For this tour, Ben has enlisted the three-piece Lady Danville as the warm-up act and they were quite entertaining. And bonus points go to percussionist/vocalist Matthew Frankel for his use of a cajón (see video of Lady Danville in action at the bottom of this post).
Regarding Ben’s set, it’s amazing how deep his catalog is at this point of his career. He didn’t even touch a Ben Folds Five track until he played “Mess” as his 18th song of the night.
Here is Ben Folds’ set list from last night:
Sleazy (Ke$ha cover)
Still Fighting It
Rock This Bitch (Tower Theater)
Levi Johnston’s Blues
The Last Polka
Zak and Sara
You Don’t Know Me
Rockin’ the Suburbs
Not the Same
Chopsticks (Liz Phair cover)
Ben Folds performs “Fair” in Dallas, Texas, during an October 2008 performance (link).
Because Ben Folds was playing at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia last night, my girlfriend, Alison, and I basically celebrated Valentine’s Day on Friday night. We exchanged gifts, she made me dinner and I gave her flowers…you know…all that stuff.
But we had made reservations for an early evening dinner Saturday at Copper Bistro in the Northern Liberties section of Philly since it is close to where the Electric Factory is. We get to the front door of the restaurant and there is a greeter outside…and nobody in the restaurant. After asking if we had reservations, he informs us that a problem with the restaurant’s oven hood meant the place was full of smoke. However, the owner was good friends with the owner of a small art gallery across the street, so the Copper Bistro staff moved all the tables and chairs over to the gallery, which served as dining room for the night. It was very resourceful and it was nice to see area businesses working together, especially in these times.
And the food was pretty good overall. The desserts were a bit of a let down, but the coffee was good and that’s all that matters to me after a meal.
Anyway, after dinner, we headed to the Electric Factory. Now, I am not one of those people at concerts who are constantly taking pictures — mostly because my photos usually turn out awful. But I like to take a few just to post on the ol’ blog. You may notice, however, that there is no photo to go along with this blog entry. I will explain that in a bit.
Knowing that I have received some pretty serious pat-downs upon entering the Electric Factory, I gave Alison my camera and my Flip camcorder to put in the bottom of her purse. In the past, it always seemed that women breezed through the security check while I was getting scrutinized for the various contact lens solutions I always carry around with me. This time, it was different…they didn’t even touch me, but they were going through all the women’s bags. Fortunately, Alison got through without the staff confiscating either camera.
However, they must have confiscated a lot because an announcement was made just before the night’s opening act, Miniature Tigers, took the stage that told people where to pick up their cameras before leaving.
So I wasn’t even going to attempt to take out my digital camera or the Flip. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt if I attempted to get one or two pics of Ben with my Blackberry.
Ben Folds and his band — now a five-musician unit — hit the stage around 10 p.m. and opened with “Fair” (see video of October 2008 performance above) from the Ben Folds Five CD “Whatever and Ever Amen”…a song I love that I haven’t heard Ben play live in quite some time. About a minute into the song, I noticed that everybody around me had their camera out taking pictures, including a few who were using flashes. Because I know any pic I take with the Blackberry is going to be crappy without using the flash, I figured I would try to take the photo and try to blend in with the 50 people or so around me who are taking pictures.
I take the pic and almost immediately, an Electric Factory staff member comes up behind me and tells me to delete the photo and to put the phone away…and that I would be thrown out if caught taking another photo.
So that was the end of my picture taking. But what bothered me was that, for the remainder of the night, there were people in my immediate vicinity who were obviously raising their cameras up to take photos and video. BUT NOTHING WAS SAID TO THEM. And since the LCD screens on these cameras were so freakin’ noticeable, I could see these photos and videos were coming out 50 times better than the piece of crap blurry pic that existed on my Blackberry for about 15 seconds. AGAIN, NOTHING WAS SAID TO ANY OF THESE PEOPLE. I think the “camera police” guy busted me and, possibly, the guy to my left, and that was it.
Hopefully, I will eventually find these better pics somewhere on the Interwebs and I will, as Mike Doughty says, gank one to accompany this blog post.
OK…so now that my rant is over about that, how was the show?
First, Miniature Tigers opened with a pretty decent set. I had listened to a couple of their songs on their MySpace page to familiarize myself a bit with them and didn’t really like what I had heard. But they sound much better live. And, even though Miniature Tigers are apparently gaining popularity among the young folks (they will be at South By Southwest next month), I don’t think I’ll be jumping on the bandwagon any time soon…just not my cup of tea.
In between Miniature Tigers and Ben Folds, the all-female Gracenotes a cappella group from West Chester University performed two original songs and then a version of “Fred Jones, Part 2” from Ben’s “Rockin’ the Suburbs” CD, which the group recorded with Ben for an upcoming disc featuring 18 a cappella groups from various colleges, universities and high schools performing songs from both Ben’s solo catalog and those from the Ben Folds Five days.
And, like I said, Ben Folds and his four fellow musicians hit the stage around 10 p.m. and knocked it out of the freakin’ park. Aside from nearly getting tossed out for taking a blurry picture with my Blackberry, this may have been the best show I have seen Ben play…especially with a band. He did an incredible solo show a few years ago in Princeton, N.J., that I hold in high regard. But last night’s show may have topped it.
By my count, he played 26 songs that covered a lot of musical territory. I don’t remember the setlist in sequential order, although I am trying to find an accurate setlist on a couple of the Ben Folds-dedicated forums that are out there. In the meantime, I have put together this list of songs based on what CDs they appeared and which were from the Ben Folds Five days:
BEN FOLDS – WAY TO NORMAL ( 2008 )
You Don’t Know Me
Kylie From Connecticut
Dr. Yang (from the “fake leak” version of the CD)
Bitch Went Nuts (from the “fake leak” version of the CD)
Way to Normal (from the “fake leak” version of the CD)
BEN FOLDS – SONGS FOR SILVERMAN (2005)
BEN FOLDS – ROCKIN THE SUBURBS (2001)
Zak and Sara
The Luckiest (which he dedicated to his wife…contradicting an article published online just two days earlier stating that his fourth marriage, to Fleur, had recently ended)
Not the Same
BEN FOLDS FIVE (in order I remembered what songs were performed):
Alice Childress (with a credit to WXPN for making it an early “hit” for BF5)
Philosophy (including Misirilou and a bit of Theme from Dr. Pyser at the end)
Any Ben Folds show that features “Army,” “Emaline,” “Philosophy,” “Underground” and “Alice Childress” are considered freakin’ sweet by default. “Fair” and “Kate” made it that much better.
4. You Don’t Know Me
5. Annie Waits
6. Alice Childress
7. Way To Normal
8. Lovesick Diagnostician (fake Dr. Yang)
9. Dr. Yang
13. Free Coffee
14. Eddie Walker
17. The Luckiest
18. Kylie From Connecticut
21. Not The Same
23. Bitch Went Nutz