House of Blues Anaheim transforms into an intimate pool of song lovers. I wade neck deep in a peanut gallery with sensitive middle-aged Weezer kids (also known as Ben Folds Five fans).
This is the show I never thought I’d see.
Northern California meets Nashville with Nataly Dawn and her band. As first timers on the road together, Nataly experiments between four-piece arrangements including “Green Eyes” by Coldplay and vocal-guitar tunes like the magnetic, “I Just Wanted You To Get Old”. The sultry one-half of Pomplamoose shows us her whiskey rock side, chanting, “CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!” halfway through her set and shares songs off her Kickstarter-funded debut album How I Knew Her (http://natalydawnpreorder.warnerreprise.com/).
I feel like I am relishing a gem on a Tuesday night at the Piano Bar in Hollywood until one of the security guards leans over and asks me during the set change, “Is this one of those piano things?” With an air of pretention, I grin and say, “There is a piano trio…You’ll see.”
The trio walks out and the peanut gallery roars “ROCK THIS BITCH!” Ben Folds Five opens up a memorable 25-song set with “I’m Missing the War”, the dramatic penultimate track to Whatever And Ever Amen. It is just like their late 90s live DVD, The Complete Sessions at West 54th, except the guys are older, thicker, and nerdier.
Ben Folds leaves his piano after the first song and walks over to Robert Sledge (bass/synth) and Darren Jessee (drums) to call out the next tune as an audience member yells, “We missed you!” The over enthused guy starts to play emcee, introducing the band from the crowd. Ben turns around, looks at him, and laughs at his gumption. The peanut gallery cheers on.
He confesses 10 songs in that it was decided early on to axe the set list, feel out the room, and take song requests. The guys still test out their newest songs from The Sound of the Life of the Mind (http://www.myplaydirect.com/ben-folds/), including the poignant “Sky High” written by Jessee and Folds, the noisy “Erase Me”, and the phallic “Draw a Crowd”.
Highlights of the evening include a punk rock gospel-like rendition of “Julianne”, solemn pop hymn “Brick”, and “Steven’s Last Night In Town”, which the band admittedly had not performed in over 14 years. However, the most brilliant Ben Folds Five moment is during “Song for the Dumped” when the band’s solo section ends with Sledge’s distorted bass. Ben starts singing The Beatles, “Get Back” to lead the audience with the Lennon-McCartney chorus over “So…you…wanted to take…a…break…” Ben finishes his verse, stands up, and conducts everyone to stop and shout “FUCK YOU TOO!” I fell in love with our sensitive Weezer kids at that moment.
At a Ben Folds Five concert, there is a song for everyone, no matter how absurd piano punk may seem.
And for all your nerds, I took good notes:
1. “I’m Missing the War”
2. “Michael Praytor, Five Years Later”
3. “Jackson Cannery” (with half baked dissonant post-blues tune)
4. “Hold That Thought”
5. “Selfless Cold and Composed”
6. “Erase Me”
7. “Alice Childress”
8. “Sky High”
9. “The Best Imitation of Myself”
11. “Tom and Mary”
14. “The Last Polka”
15. “Do It Anyway”
16. “Song For the Dumped”
19. “Your Cheating Heart” (Hank Williams)
20. “Success Has Made A Failure of Our Home” (Sinead O’Connor)
21. “Steven’s Last Night in Town”
23. “Draw A Crowd”
25. Encore: “Underground”
Review by Kateri Lirio
Photos by rrrocky