Ben Folds, SLSO Sex Up Powell Hall 4/13/14: Review, Setlist

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Ben Folds and the St. Louis Symphony made beautiful music together. - Michael Wilson
Michael Wilson
Ben Folds and the St. Louis Symphony made beautiful music together.

In this week's print edition, renowned pianist and songwriter Ben Folds makes the case that going on a date at the symphony is akin to foreplay -- that the atmosphere is a perfect prelude to a little bump and grind. We could say that about many musical endeavors. After all, music and sex have been intertwined for a very long time -- well before Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus pantomimed the nasty at the Video Music Awards or Elvis Presley had his gyrating lower half cut off from the Ed Sullivan Show.

But there's certainly something about a live orchestra that inspires a rush of blood to our private parts, so as we set out to review Folds' second of two nights with the world-class St. Louis Symphony, we decided to track which songs created the biggest stirrings in our loins. Spoiler alert: we didn't have to fake a damn thing.

See also: Sex and the Symphony: Ben Folds Explains Why Orchestral Music is the Best Aphrodisiac


Oh, flutes, how you made our heart flutter! The St. Louis Symphony woodwinds really stood out during "Landed," following each of Folds' verse lines with an echo that drew out his emotion further and further. The song grew more layered with brass, cymbals and an eight-person choir building up to a fabulous crescendo while strings tugged, reminding us not to float too high just yet. But oh, how we wanted to.

Verdict: Glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife.


About three quarters through his evening with the St. Louis Symphony, Folds stood up from his piano and made a passionate plea for the audience to continue to support symphony orchestras. Folds recounted the focus and purpose that taking up percussion in the 5th grade had given him, applauded the true harmony that orchestra members attain as a collective and then complimented SLSO as one of the best in the world. "These are 60 of the most talented people you'll ever see in your life," Folds said. "We need them more than they need us."

Whew. As former band nerds, we drooled over everything Folds said. But then Folds quickly assigned three-part harmony to the audience for "Not the Same," and we became completely smitten. Singing anything whatsoever gives us all the feels, but harmonizing with 3,000 other people who knew exactly when to make their "Aaaahhhhhs" rise was simply electric.

Verdict: We wanna go south and get us some more.


Folds' brain for holistic composition already was on clear display in "Narcolepsy" from 1999's The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner with Ben Folds Five, and his recent retooling of the song for orchestra use has made this gem even more outstanding. SLSO added a wonderful dreamlike -- and, at times, appropriately and evocatively nightmarish -- haze to the song with thunderous rattles and unexpected clashes.

As we listened to the interludes of both rumble and reflection under perfectly synced flashing lights, our mind created movies of love, of loss, of amusement and of hell, speeding our heartbeat and bringing us to the brink of grabbing someone to share whatever the heck it was we were feeling. As the tune ended, we were kind of panting.

Verdict: Let's get it on.

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