“You all don’t know what it’s like, being male, middle-class, and white,” Ben Folds shouted loudly and repeatedly during the first song of his encore last night. “Rockin’ the Suburbs” pretty much summarizes Folds’ physical appearance and sense of humor, but it doesn’t even begin to encompass the breadth of his talent.
Playing a two-hour set to a sold-out House of Blues, Folds ripped through songs on both sides of the spectrum, as well as a whole bunch that don’t even fit on a spectrum. Last night's take on “Rock This Bitch,” a song whose lyrics and melodies change at every show, included a hilarious drum solo. “You say, ‘You can’t write a bridge on a hi-hat,’ and I say, ‘Fuck your ass, I can’,” Folds told his overjoyed fans.
Folds transitioned from a song about a middle-aged man who screwed and then married his 17-year-old daughter’s best friend to the sincere “The Luckiest,” a ballad newlyweds have been using at their weddings for years.
His lyrical storytelling has always been immaculate, detailing personal struggles in two ways: with tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and guile, or with complete seriousness and earnestness. The audience enthusiastically sang along to “Landed,” “Zak and Sara,” “Bitch Went Nuts,” and “Emaline.” They also contributed harmonies to crowd favorite “Army.”
All the while, Folds’ hands bounced around his piano with incredible ease. His fingers conveyed trickling water in “Free Coffee,” and a deliberate stampede-like clunking gave power to “Annie Waits.” The flashy piano work in “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces” danced circles around Folds' vocals. A jazz pianist might be able to play it, but Folds injected insanely quick flourishes that brought the ivories to life.
As Folds walked off the stage grinning and bowing to the crowd, gigantic pit stains covered his shirt. No sweat. We’re talking about a guy who plays his heart out night after night — a guy who has such passion for his craft that it seeps through his every movement. He might come from the suburbs, but his true home is the stage. —Danielle Sills