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Transmission
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Review Mon Oct 22 2012

Review: Ben Folds Five at The Chicago Theatre 9/30/2012

benfolds1
Ben Folds (photo by Stephanie Griffin)


Earlier this month the Chicago Theater welcomed the much anticipated return of Ben Folds Five, 12 years after the band originally split. The thing about this reunion is that it feels like the band were never gone at all. Ben Folds went on to release a multitude of solo albums that all sound a good deal like his material with the Five, plus he never shied away from playing the old material in his live performances. I'd seen Ben Folds live a handful of times but never with the rest of the band. Would the addition of Darren Jessee and Robert Sledge make that much of a difference?

The band's break-up had been amicable. There had been no drama, no big ego explosions, no drug addictions. They didn't suffer from on-stage tension like we see in many reunion acts that have had a more tumultous past. These three guys are actually friends with each other and had remained so even through the years apart. It showed in their performance. There's a real camaraderie present, and they're not faking it. They were lively on stage and you could tell they were having a good time.

The biggest draw of this show for me was the expectation that they'd be playing a lot of older material that Ben Folds hadn't been playing on his solo tours. In that respect, I was slightly disappointed. The cuts weren't nearly as deep as I'd been hoping. While they did play plenty of material from the first few albums, including "Brick", "Kate", "Army", and "Emaline", these were all songs that Ben Folds had been playing regularly during the years the band had been apart. The set did offer some pleasant surprises. The band threw in two understated, mellow songs from their earlier years - "Missing the War" and "Selfless, Cold, and Composed". I'd seen the song "Army" performed live countless times, but hearing the bass solo actually performed by Robert Sledge gave the song that extra bit of magic.

About halfway through the set, a fan a few rows ahead of me yelled "Rock this bitch!" to Ben. For the unfamiliar, many years ago a fan in Chicago had yelled the same to Ben and Ben responded with an impromptu song about, well, rocking this bitch. The song was included in the Ben Folds Live! album, which led to the tired practice of this phrase being screamed at pretty much every Ben Folds concert since. Typically the request goes ignored, but Ben decided to respond with an impromptu song about how "Rock this bitch!" is yelled at every concert, then asked (in song, of course) if the person who had originally yelled the phrase in Chicago was in the house. Needless to say the entire audience started started screaming. Ben proceeded to tell the audience, in song, that we were all a bunch of posers.

The night ended with the explosive "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces", concluding with Ben's signature move - throwing his piano stool against the keys.

Note from the writer: Please accept my apology for this review coming to you a full three weeks after the show. Computer issues led to the loss of a good deal of my photos and the original copy of this review.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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