Published on September 20th, 2012 | by Jason Cooper0
The Ben Folds Five Give Fans Music Lessons at the PAC
Ben Folds Five
North Charleston Performing Arts Center, Sept. 19
If the lead singer of the group you paid to see threatens to “take it out in the streets” as to whether or not the correct key of the song they’re going to play is F sharp or G flat, you’re probably at a Ben Folds Five concert. Where else, besides music theory class, would you get a lesson in how to correctly count off a rock song (versus an orchestra)? And what other group would repeatedly ask throughout the night if there were any music or vocal majors in the house?
Unfortunately, the PAC wasn’t as full as it should have been. It was a darn-good musical performance. Kudos to Australian opening act Kate Miller-Heidke and her band for their unique style of music performance. One guitar (played by her husband, Keir) and one voice was all they needed for a standing ovation at the end of their short set. Her well-worded, in-your-face lyrics complimented his jazz/blues/rock fingerings to form complete and full songs from just the pair. Kate even added a touch of opera here and there, as she is a classically trained singer. One surprising fact is that Kate has a double-platinum, number one hit song in Australia, but this was her first time in South Carolina.
Ben Folds Five (actually, there’s only three in the band) came out of Chapel Hill, N.C., in the early ’90s. They broke up in 2000 but reunited years later to release another album 15-plus years after their first. Pianist/singer Folds, bassist Robert Sledge, and drummer Darren Jessee came to the Performing Arts Center in North Charleston in support of the new album The Sound of the Life of the Mind. Some of the fresh tracks included “Sky High,” “Erase Me,” “Michael Praytor, Five Years Later,” and “Do it Anyway” (minus the Fraggles from the music video).
However, it wasn’t all about the new stuff. “Brick” started off a litany of hits including “Kate,” “Battle of Who Could Care Less,” “Song for the Dumped,” “Underground,” and “Philosophy,” for which Mr. Folds pulled a rather loud, lung-enriched fan named Lewis Dodson (of the Drop In on Folly Beach) out of the crowd and brought him onstage to sing, complete with full ’70s mustache. He forgot 50 percent of the lyrics, but he kept the crowd entertained with his Freddie Mercury poses and David Lee Roth kicks (half kicks, maybe).
For those not familiar with the music of Ben Folds Five, it might be labeled as very jazz inspired. In fact, at any given time in a song, the Peanuts Gang could have appeared on stage and gyrated to the laid-back groove. Then, with the help of majors, minors, fifths, ninths, sharps, flats, and more sharps and flats, the music transitions from jazz to ballads, blues, rock, to orchestra … sometimes even within the same song. The sheet music must be like someone busted an Etch-A-Sketch open, just stuff everywhere. Three-part candy harmonies sounded like extra instruments to accent Sledge’s bass, Jessee’s drums, and Folds’ keys.
Having watched Folds on a network talent show The Sing Off, it was exciting to see the teacher perfect his craft rather than tell others how it should be done. Ben seems to be a comic at heart, as evidenced by his bad jokes and random song-break stories about old, sweaty men in gorilla suits being hit with flying vodka bottles in his hometown of Winston-Salem, NC. His repertoire with the audience and his bandmates made everyone feel relaxed and comfortable, maybe too comfortable as people shouted out various songs for the band to play, but he handled it perfectly with calm professionalism and crass sarcasm.
(top photo by Autumn de Wilde)
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