In front of a sold-out audience at First Avenue, Ben Folds did something he’s never done before.
He stopped a song, half-way through due to a bass guitar mishap that produced zero sound for a song that “really needed some bass” and bantered to the crowd about a foreshadowing dream he had where everything goes wrong and for some reason, Sting is there. Oh, and it was his very first song of the night.
“Well that’s a first for me,” Folds said, with a laugh. “I mean, I’ve stopped plenty of songs before … but never the first (expletive) one.”
Ever the quick-witted entertainer, Folds didn’t miss the opportunity to poke a little fun at himself, making up a song on the spot about how everything was seemingly going to hell in a hand basket.
A few tweaks of a cord here, a few futzing with an amp there and we were back in business. And true to Ben Folds form, he never even missed a beat.
Truth be told, short of Mr. Folds doing a Diva-like stomp off stage, there’s truly no snag that could make this seasoned musician any less lovable. His geeky charm and goofy humor only amplifies the extreme talent pouring from his fingertips.
Both of which were never more apparent than on Sunday night in Minneapolis.
The thing about Ben is that he’s really a two-fold musician — no pun intended. First, there’s the soft, delicate piano player who tickles the ivories in a way that could easily lull you to a dreamlike state. Then, there’s the intense pianist who seems like he’s torturing the piano for information — and if only the black Baldwin knew the answers, it’d likely give up the deets to make the banging stop.
Whether it was new hits, such as the ever-popular “Levi Johnston’s Blues,” (where Folds assumes the first-person perspective of the overnight Palin-courting sensation) or classic tunes like “Gone,” off his 2001 Rockin’ the Suburbs album, Folds truly dominated the stage. Even despite being slightly less than full strength.
Early in the show, Folds revealed that a mere six days ago he was in the ER with a highly bruised hand — the product of a botched equipment move where a speaker pinned his piano paw against a hardwood floor. Ouch. Bruised hand or not, there’s no way the crowd noticed even a hint of resistance as Folds took his usual piano man stance and hammered out a great performance.
Those that know Folds well know he loves a good twist on a cover song. So a highlight, no doubt, had to be Folds’ sarcastic rendition of the Ke$ha song, “Sleazy,” a song that includes such powerful lyrics as “That you really think you’re gonna get my rocks off, get my top and socks off by showing me the dollars in your drop box.” Folds and his band nailed it, right down to the low “Sleazy” voice and the accompanying “phat” beats.
Another highlight to the show was the opening band, “Street Corner Symphony,” fresh off its newfound fame from NBC’s hit show, “The Sing-Off.” Though the band didn’t win the reality competition that searches for the best in a capella, it seems they have plenty to celebrate.
The band’s first time in Minneapolis was only their second show on tour.
“We’re kind of brand new,” lead singer Jeremy Lister said, before quipping about our intense cold weather.
With an added member, Street Corner performed most of its hits from “The Sing-Off,” including my personal fave — an a capella version of Radiohead’s “Creep.” The guys threw in a Johnny Cash sing-along of “Ring of Fire” for good measure, before unleashing an original song called “Shooting Star” — which featured great harmonies and a stellar, catchy chorus.
In total, the evening was everything a fan could’ve asked for and enough to convert a few skeptics. Street Corner etched humble personas in the minds of a new live audience and paved the way for a hopeful successful career beyond the “Sing-Off.” And whether it was the first time or the fifth for fans, Folds showed he’s only getting edgier, more colorful and, for better or worse, unexpected.
Sara Boyd is a web producer and columnist at WCCO.COM.