Entertainment :: Music

Live (Ben Folds Five)

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Monday Jun 17, 2013
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The Ben Folds Five have been a favorite act on the alternative music scene since their sophomore offering, "Whatever and Ever Amen" in 1997. Though successive releases haven’t yielded the mainstream notice that record received, Folds, both with and without "the Five" (bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee) continues to tour and produce constantly, gaining a worldwide fan base that’s appreciative and dedicated to the work of the songwriter / pianist. This includes their latest set, "Ben Folds Five Live;" fifteen cuts from the trio’s 2012-2013 world tour.

Over half of "Live" is culled from material originally released on the group’s first two releases. Kicking off with "Jackson Cannery," one of four tracks recorded at the Warfield in San Francisco, the Five stays true to who they have always been on stage: Folds the frontman, an uncensored and aggressive piano player, telling quirky stories about young adult life alongside Jessee, the pounding drummer, and Sledge’s signature heavily-distorted bass guitar work, all of which complement Folds throughout the recording, especially on "Underground" (from their last show in Osaka). With two decades of experience behind them, the band is relaxed and ready to rock; comfortably encouraging sing-a-longs, performing entire improvised songs based on a single chord ("One Chord Blues," recorded in Los Angeles), showtunes from rock operas ("Heaven On Their Minds" from "Jesus Christ Superstar") with an unphased, raw energy that compensates for slightly off background vocals that occur in the moment.

Fans of the band will appreciate the mix of material chosen here, but the uninitiated will veer towards their hits, "Brick," the lengthy-titled, "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces" (both from the Warfield), "Selfless, Cold and Composed" (from the House of Blues in Boston), and "Narcolepsy" (from Hitomi Kinen Hall in Tokyo). Newcomers to the Nashville-based Folds should check out the higher quality studio recordings before venturing into his live recordings, but his followers will appreciate this latest memento from their tour.

"Ben Folds Five Live"
Ben Folds Five
CD and Digital formats
Sony Legacy

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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