Ben Folds Five

8 remarkable things about my first time seeing Ben Folds Five (in no particular order):

1 - The intimacy. I'm used to big concerts. The artist I've seen live more than any other in my life is Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, and it was just a few weeks ago that I saw them at MetLife Stadium, along with probably about 65,000 of my closest friends. The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY, is almost as far from that as you can get. We were on the floor which was mostly standing room only, but unlike a Springsteen show I didn't have to arrive at 2:30PM for a wristband only to have to come back at 4PM to stand in line to be let into the pit to wait for a few hours before the concert started. The show was scheduled for 8PM, we walked in at 7:15, and we were able to get a great spot right in front of the stage with only one line of people in front of us. You can see from the picture just how close we were; so close I could hear the sound of Robert Sledge's foot on his pedals as he clicked them on and off. Very cool.

2 - The opening act, Kate Miller-Heidke. She's from Australia and also opened for Ben Folds when I saw him solo at UPAC in Kingston, NY, two years to the day before Tuesday night's show. It really says something about the songs when I only heard them once two years ago and I recognized them again. Specifically, her song "Caught In The Crowd" is very powerful, and upon further investigation I was surprised, but not shocked, to learn that it won the top prize in the 2008 International Songwriting Competition. It's that good.

3 - Ben Folds Five, dude! I mean seriously! I waited 10 years for this show! Sure, I've seen Ben Folds solo twice - in 2002 and 2010 - but this is the original.

4 - The setlist. Again, my reference is a Bruce Springsteen concert, where they keep things moving one song to another. On Tuesday night, with the exception of the last 3 or 4 songs of the set, the band had at least a little bit of a pause between every song. Also, most of the show wasn't even attempting to keep the momentum and energy moving forward quickly. Most of the set was structured: upbeat song, downbeat song, upbeat song, downbeat song, etc., until the last few songs that were all upbeat. And I don't mean this as a criticism - it's just different, and it allowed the show to just kinda wash over the crowd as a whole.

5 - My lack of expectations. Of course I expected the show to be good, but what I was not expecting was a certain song. We talked about what songs we might hear before the show, but I didn't go in with a hard list of songs that I was hoping to hear. I've seen Springsteen so many times at this point that I do go in with a mental list - songs I have been waiting to hear live that I haven't yet. But going along with the above point about the setlist, I just soaked this show in instead of waiting for a particular song.

6 - The "oops" moments. I counted at least 4. In the opening song, "Michael Praytor, Five Years Later," Ben seemed to forget a few lyrics at the beginning of the 2nd verse and had to fake it by muffling his words a little (a trick I'm well aware of as a singer). In another song I could've sworn I heard a wrong note on the piano. Ben's playing on the intro of "Draw A Crowd" completely fell apart, but he insisted that everything keep going and the crowd was into it. That was a moment that really drew the crowd in. During the encore, there was a slight timing issue in "Magic" when the full band comes back in toward the end of the song - it was completely noticeable and Darren Jessee got a big smile on his face as if yo say, "Yeah, that just happened." The crowd loved it.

7 - The vocal harmonies. The way that Robert and Darren backed up Ben's lead vocals was truly impressive. Harmonies are not one of my strongest points, but the two of them made playing and singing fantastic backgrounds look effortless.

8 - The Capitol Theatre. It actually is really impressive despite it being in what seems to me to be an out-of-the-way location. Recently renovated, the walls featured pictures of the legendary artists who have graced the stage, especially in the 70s. And the coat-check was key, as it would've gotten too hot standing on the floor.

All in all, a great show from beginning to end.

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    © STEVE SCHULTZ