Ben Folds, SLSO Sex Up Powell Hall 4/13/14: Review, Setlist
ROCK THIS BITCH
How many bands can create a song within seconds and blend all of the pieces together in the most harmonious way without any practice whatsoever? Ok, now how many of those bands have nearly 100 members contributing at once? People, it just doesn't happen -- that is, unless you're Folds and a damn fine orchestra.
It was because of SLSO's talent and Folds' direction that the always-impromptu "Rock This Bitch" was such a success. Continuing his tradition of making up a song at just about every performance since 2002, Folds shouted out keys and tempos to the harpist, cellists, saxophonists and members of other orchestra sections, urging solos and then reining them all in with wacky lyrics. "We're makin' it up, y'all," Folds sang as he stood at the piano, pounding the keys like Jerry Lee Lewis did back in the day. "They said it couldn't be done, y'all!" Witnessing some of the most talented musicians in the world create and refine something from nothing -- and with obvious joy flashing across their faces -- was stunning and intoxicating. Our body was burning with admiration and desire.
Verdict: Smack it up, flip it, rub it down.
Intelligence, creativity and joy are three traits that make us purr, so we practically were growling aloud once Folds introduced the new concerto for piano and orchestra that he had been working on for more than a year. Despite being known for short pop songs, Folds grew up nurturing his affection for classical music, which clearly was on display in his long-form composition.
"The orchestra frequently enters the rock world, so it's only fair for me to try to enter their world," Folds told the audience. "And this [SLSO] is a really great orchestra. You might think that I say that about all the orchestras I work with. I do not, and you can go to YouTube and find that out."
Expertly arranged with all orchestra sections in mind, the concerto felt like a love letter to many musical styles ranging from Broadway to rock to chiptune, and SLSO was up for the challenge. Folds' opus opened with brooding strings, a wallop on the drum kit and a cymbal crash before adding more strings and moving into something that might easily fit into Disney's Sleeping Beauty or Fantasia. Folds' piano contributed a low, minor bassline straight out of Super Mario's dungeon, while pounding on a metal sheet brought some evil thunder.
The piece then picked up elements of '30s jazz and old Hollywood glamour, later combining with bells and xylophone for some trolley sounds from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. By this point, Folds was standing up, slamming the piano keys and stomping the pedals while SLSO conductor Steven Jarvi used his arms to weave a mesmerizing dance for the musicians to follow. Timpani thumped lightly and cellos lifted the piece out of the seductive darkness.
And then came the end, a sweet violin-focused piece that recalled "Through the Eyes of Love" from Ice Castles and baited us with hope before slamming us with more timpani and cymbals in an operatic death. The concerto -- which was just begging to be paired with dance -- was one hell of a ride, expertly driven with teases and caresses. The emotional sonic rollercoaster left us sweaty and feeling like we'd just had an all-night session of the best sex of our life, and Lord help us, we're already salivating for another round.
Verdict: Give us a cigarette. Or ten.
Fred Jones Pt. 2
Steven's Last Night in Town
- Intermission -
Zak and Sara
Rock This Bitch
Not the Same
One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces
Rockin' the Suburbs
Update 12:20 p.m. 4/14 - Folds definitely isn't paying lip service to SLSO's greatness. Check out his farewell tweet: