Before I get into the greatest concert I’ve ever seen (I know, I have a tendency to be hyperbolic – and I get excited about a lot of things, but I can assure you, just based on showmanship alone, this was the greatest concert I’ve ever seen. More on that later), let’s talk about how stoked I am to have a venue like this walking distance from my new house. It’s intimate, but big enough that it can seat a raucous crowd eager to hear some great music. They can arrange the seating based on the kind of music, leaving a pit with standing room only for artists that call for dancing, or filling the area with chairs for more tame music. No frills. Nothing fancy (we sat on white plastic folding chairs), but comfortable and super close to the action.
Now let’s talk Ben Folds. As mentioned above, we got to sit super close (see the pic below), but there were really no bad seats in the house. There was no opening act…and none was needed. Ben Folds walked on stage, sat at his piano, and started playing. He started with “Annie Waits,” from his album “Rocking the Suburbs.” At the first few bars, the crowd went crazy, myself included (because, if I’m honest, this is the only album of his I know frontwards and backwards), and it was awesome to start with something I knew all the words to.
Before we started, I told Kristina that there were five songs I really wanted to hear: One Angry Dwarf, Zak and Sara, Brick, The Luckiest (our first dance at our wedding), and Army. After his first set, he had only played Zak and Sara. He was funny. He was charming. He talked enough to make you feel a part of the show, but not so much that he couldn’t play a lot of songs. When things didn’t go right, he worked with it. It was an incredible show. After the first hour, he had played an eleven song set. If that had been it, I would have been happy. But it was really just the beginning.
He told us he would be taking a 5 minute intermission. During said intermission, we were to write our requests on a piece of paper and then fold that paper into an airplane. Here is mine below (on which I wrote for him to play either a cover of Elton John’s “Take Me To the Pilot,” which, for the record, I think Ben Folds would absolutely murder – ugh – I get chills just thinking about how good that would be, or “The Luckiest.” We hadn’t heard it yet, and I was there with my gorgeous wife…so what better way to celebrate our evening together than to hear the song we first danced to on the day it all began?).
Anywho (I hate it when people say that), I folded this lovely little flier and sent it to the sky. It went all of four feet in front of me before it slammed into a denim and plaid clad gentleman with an epic white beard. So, we did not get to hear “Take Me To the Pilot” that night, BUT…he did play 2 more of the songs from my list – including “The Luckiest.” He did play an Elton John song, too, though not the one I had hoped for (any guesses what might have been requested?) And after “Tiny Dancer,” one of our fellow audience members threw the following plane:
Cover Request: Fastball’s “Out of My Head”
I’ll explain it on Twitter – Chet
Ben Folds didn’t know “Out of My Head,” but he used the note to invent a little ditty where he sang the exact words on the plane, then had the audience join in, in what will forever be lodged somewhere in my brain. Very catchy. Very clever idea. News flash, he is insanely gifted as a musician, super talented on the piano, and outrageously creative.
This creativity, and charisma (let’s be honest, I kind of have a crush on this guy now), was highlighted when a (very drunk) girl from the audience kept yelling, “But you’re still gonna rock this bitch.” On the spot, he wrote a little ditty that both cleverly mocked the girl (he mumbles “but you’re still gonna rock this bitch,” and then follows with the lyric “all my friends hate me cuz I talk like this” in a high pitched voice) and made her squeal with delight. Did I mention how charming he was?
Of course, we were laughing so hard we were crying. By request, he played another eleven song set. It was absolute magic. But it still didn’t stop there. He joked that he would come back out for an encore regardless of whether or not we cheered for him to come back out. In fact, he said it would be funny if we were silent…and then he wouldn’t come back out until everyone was dead quiet. After a few minutes, the drunks in the crowd were able to shut their mouths just long enough to get him back on the stage.
Once back out for the encore, he kicked his stool away and played the encore standing. His first song, “One Angry Dwarf,” was so upbeat and so incredible. 4/5 songs played. Then, he went straight into “Army” and the whole crowd burst into cheers and got to their feet. We ended the night singing, clapping, and marveling at his incredible showmanship and talent. And I ended the night 5/5 on songs I wanted to hear. To say that this was an epic night is a serious understatement.
Thank you lovely wife for surprising me with the tickets. And thank you Ben Folds for surprising me with the best concert I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen dozens of great shows and hundreds of bands). He really is that good.