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Orpheum Theatre Madison, WI

Ben Folds

Release Date: December 5, 2001
Record label: Ben Folds
Genre(s): Country Western

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Rockin' the Orpheum
by: bill aicher

It doesn't quite seem to make sense to place a pop-punk 311 wannabe rock group before Ben Folds. This assertion makes even more sense when you take into account the point behind the title track to Folds' solo album, Rockin' the Suburbs. The song is a trashing of Limp Bizkit and the other bands out there who "rock out" and "kick ass," so why would you put one of these bands before Ben Folds?

I don't know either.

Opening act complaints aside, Ben Folds puts on a spectacular live show. Playing to a near-capacity house at Madison, WI's Orpheum Theatre for local radio station 92.1's annual Jingle Ball, Folds showed the audience that not only has he grown with the release of his latest album, but he's also grown in the quality his live performance.

The show opened with "Not the Same" followed by "Zak and Sara," both off the latest album. Unfortunately for Ben, he broke a string on the piano after "Zak and Sara." Still, he managed to work around it and it didn't impede on the show.

Drawing mostly from Suburbs, Folds focused primarily on a more mature sound than previous shows with Ben Folds Five had produced. Together with a backing band of two guitarists/keyboardists and a live drummer, Folds overwhelmingly pleased the audience of mostly college-aged students.

With an encore composed primarily of Ben Folds Five-era songs, and Folds on solo piano, he managed to please the entire audience with standards of "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces" and "Philosophy," along with a stunningly beautiful rendition of "Evaporated" (a rarely-played song from Whatever and Ever Amen).

Folds has surely matured, both in sound and in technique, since his earlier days. Still, even with the new backing band, the show retained a fun quality, due mostly to the great chemistry that was apparent throughout the stage.

Once again, Ben Folds demonstrated what makes a great show: good songs, mastered skills, and a great attitude. Who cares if the opening band sucked? It's a small price to pay. 11-Dec-2001 10:09 PM