I have been to quite a few concerts in my life.  From childrens’ harp recitals to symphony orchestras, from high school battle of the bands to famous pop bands.  Last night I attended the Ben Folds concert at the IU auditorium.  Here I will discuss the opening act and a little about Ben Folds’s style or play and performance.

One of the most interesting things for me to see was the way the opening act captured the audience who, prior to seeing her on this stage, had most likely never heard of her.  She began her short set with a song that was somewhat unoriginal and in line with many of popular artists such as Colbie Caillat and Missy Higgins.  It was a pleasant song, but nothing original in terms of lyrics or styling.  The audience was not engaged at this point.  People were still filtering into the auditorium, and conversations continued.  She went into the next song explaining that it was an expression of her sadness for missing out on the 60’s.  As before, the audience continued their conversations until she surprisingly went into short operatic runs that seemed like brief spastic interruptions in an otherwise run-of-the-mill song.  When she did one of these for the first time, there was a hush over the crowd and all eyes turned to her.  The song finished and there was enigmatic applause as opposed to the weak half-claps following the previous song.

As her set progressed, she told stories about how she came to write each of the songs she played including a story about an 8 year old boy who waited in ling on a hot day for her to autograph his underwear.  At this point, she started to remind me of artists that incorporate humoristic undertones in their music such as Lilly Allen, Katy Perry, and punk bands such as Bowling for Soup, Blink 182, and even Rasputinas(FYI some of these are rated PG-13 – R… just sayin’).  Her second to last song was prefaced by her saying it was about a man who broke her heart several years ago.  To my surprise, and I’m sure the surprise of everyone around me, the song was about how he wanted to be her friend on facebook!  She finished her set with a song much like the first.  Following each song after her second, in which she brought elements of humor, the applause and cheers she received became increasingly vivacious.  It was clear that she captured the audience and held their attention with her unique and unrelinquishing humorist character.

Unlike the opening artist, Ben Folds had a slightly easier job to do.  He was already loved by the audience, and a majority of the audience could sing along with each and every song that he played.  None-the-less, I was still amazed at his unique style.  He practically plays concert piano while singing lyrics that would fit into the Alternative music genre.  It reminded me of the way in which Looney Tunes introduced classical music to children’s cartoons as background to the scurrying craziness of chases between Bugs Bunny & Elmer Fudd, Road Runner & Wiley Coyote, and Daffy Duck & Yosemite Sam.  Only in this case, it is an exposure to the classical piano style for 20 somethings.  Further, he often takes the power stance seen with rock stars, suggesting that the piano can be an instrument just as cool as an electric guitar.

In addition to Ben Folds’s big-picture style, I also noticed many elements of detail that evoked a feeling that I appreciated.  For space sake, I will save my favorite.  I noticed that several of Ben’s songs end in a cord that sounds rather unfinished.  At first I was a little disconcerted by this tendency, then I noticed a pattern.  The songs that had lyrics that told the story of characters, such as Annie Waits, Still Fighting It, and Zak & Sara were the songs that he left unfinished.  Once I noticed, I was shocked by this and pleasantly surprised.  It made me reflect on how the stories of how the characters weren’t finished, but rather left for us to resolve.

For those of you who don’t know Ben Folds, here’s a song of his that really exemplifies his concert piano abilities.  Here he is also playing with and orchestra.

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