Show Review + Setlist: Ben Folds and a Piano Triumphs Despite a Distracted Crowd

Apr 17, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Ben Folds and his piano rocked the Chaifetz Arena last night, despite the less-than-intimate venue and somewhat-inattentive crowd.

The personable popstar didn't chat as much between songs, possibly because it's hard to unite a crowd in an oversized venue like the Chaifetz. For such an intimate tour (he really is just one guy and a piano), he seemed put off by the 10,600-seat venue; he alluded to it a handful of times throughout the show.

"This is a nice cozy joint," he said by way of an introduction after playing "Free Coffee" and "Annie Waits."

The show was put on by Saint Louis University's Student Activities Board, and was free for SLU students, a fact that likely annoyed the diehard Folds fans in the audience. The large crowd was mostly students, and those in the stands were more interested in texting, tweeting and talking than watching the man on stage.

At this point in his prolific career, to call Folds a pro just doesn't go far enough. But he is, in fact, more than a pro; he has performing down to an exact science. He's a dynamic, polished performer who knows his audience, and every move he makes receives a response he's anticipating. Anytime he stood up up while gnashing the keys, the crowd went wild. He used the stage to great effect, punctuating certain hooks and choruses by pounding his booted foot on the ground while tickling the ivories.

Fold blazed through the 90-minute set, playing new stuff along with the crowd pleasing favorites "Still Fighting It" and "Zak and Sara."

Folds played a few tracks off a forthcoming album he co-wrote with High Fidelity writer Nick Hornby. "You know he's British, he thinks we're all crazy. This first song he wrote watching the RNC in 2008," Folds said before launching into the hilariously topical song "Levi Johnston's Blues," about the Alaskan teen who impregnated former VP candidate Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol. (The chorus? "I'm a fuckin' redneck, I live to hang out with the boys/Play some hockey, do some fishing, kill some moose/I like to shoot the shit and do some chillin', I guess/Ya fuck with me and I'll kick your ass.") "It's asking a lot of a stadium-like crowd to listen to new music," he added after playing "Picture Window," a wistful new cut.

Like any nerd worthy of the distinction, Folds is no stranger to the Internet. In 2006, he became the first person to live-stream a concert on Myspace, and a few weeks back, footage from one of his shows went viral when he incorporated freaky internet fad ChatRoulette into the performance, improvising songs for each unsuspecting chat partner. During the encore, there were a few in the crowd with "CHATROULETTE" signs, but sadly, Folds didn't do a repeat of his Baltimore performance.