Thursday, June 16, 2011
Concert review: Ben Folds with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (June 15)
Folds proved once again that he's the Elvis of folk rock.
DALLAS Family man, singer/songwriter, and king of the anti-rock 'n' roll lifestyle, Ben Folds packed Meyerson Symphony Hall with adoring super-fans for a performance backed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He proved his chops as true musician’s musician.
Taking a sweeping and almost cinematic start, the show began with the social commentary tune “Jesusland,” in which every instrument of the orchestra got a strong introduction – from cello to harp to percussion, and even a six-person backup choir.
If the wild applause was any indication, the simple, approachable cadence of Folds’ voice and his diminutive sloping shoulders was a nice match for the orchestra’s majestic, strong, and clean lines.
Despite reportedly battling a cold contracted on his most recent leg of a tour in Asia, Folds’ vocals did not sound dry or strained. In fact, the only indication of his Eastern whirlwind was possibly the Namaste prayer hands pose he offered the orchestra after every song, with a short bow.
“Still Fighting It” grew from an almost-timid piano and vocals to a goose-bump-inducing crescendo with every escalating gong clash and strike of the violins.
“I don’t usually make a lot of top 10 lists,” joked Folds before introducing his next pre-applauded cult hit. “This next one’s been on several top 10 lists, including Top 10 Most Depressing 10 Pro-Life songs and Top 10 Pro-Choice songs,” he smirked. And through a sea of applause “Brick” was performed.
The almost evangelical song “Not the Same” called for some unique crowd involvement, and Dallas raised the bar on chorus “oohs” and “ahhs” as conducted by Folds himself, similar to how he did with the Dallas crowd in 2009. Folds even took the liberty to have a little fun with the crowd’s vocal control, increasing the pace on half the audience and staggering the call and response of the other half.
“I love you, Ben,” was shouted from the second balcony. No sooner, Folds reminded everyone of his priorities and personality with the song “Gracie” – dedicated to his four-year-old daughter of the same name.
Wrapping up the evening was the improvised tune about Normal, Illinois, a few tracks from his collaboration record with novelist Nick Hornby (of About a Boy fame) and finally, a comical yet sincere encore performance. He jokingly tapped out a few bars from The Nutcracker on the piano before settling into one of his most adored tunes, which he dedicated to his wife: “The Luckiest.”
The adoring crowd stood rapt in applause for a good three to four minutes after the encore, hoping for a second but left wanting more.
For this Elvis of folk rock, a quote Fold referenced earlier in the show proved more relevant than he thought: Elvis said to Sonny Bono through a post-show sweat and cool down, “God damn, Sonny. I am the fucking king.”
And so he is.
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