Live: Ben Folds – Appollo Hammersmith

By on Wednesday, 24th January 2007 at 2:02 am

It seems that Ben Folds is a rare thing in the music industry – a genuinely talented musician who can hold an audience in his hand, and hasn’t been pushed up to the top on record company spin – he’s made it on his own. After an intriguing set by Clem Snide he leaps onto the stage dead on 9, and promptly plays his way through most of his solo stuff, with a few hidden gems thrown in for good measure.

Now, most of you probably won’t have heard of Ben as he’s quite underground here, so a quick bit of introduction. Nerdy white boy from North Carolina forms a band, the band breaks up, Ben goes does solo albums, becomes massive in the states and increasingly so elsewhere.

Clem Snide started off the evening as a very suitable support: one man and his guitar, and some rather humorous songs. More than capable at holding the audience’s attention, he seemed like a young Ben Folds. Whilst some may question his sanity after his passion filled acapella song at the end of his set, he proved himself to be a capable musician, doing both his own stuff and others (including a cover of Christina Aguilera’s “you’re Beautiful”). He could be one to watch coming up in coming years.

Then Ben made his entrance, with Europe’s “The Final Countdown” blasting over the PA. He then rattled his way through most of his well known songs, and a few special oldies for the diehard fans. “Rock this Bitch” came in quite early whilst Ben played with his kazoo and synth. For those who don’t know, “Rock This Bitch” is the customary part of the evening when Ben plays a song that he makes up on the spot, which is different virtually every show.

The musical maestro continued with a majority of newer songs from last August’s Supersunnyspeedgraphic, which whilst good live, don’t have the same energy as some of his earlier stuff in the Ben Folds Five.

Halfway through the set and his backing band takes a break, leaving Ben to do some slower numbers, including the tragic “Fred Jones Pt 2”, before being joined again by his full band for a triumphant romp through such classics as “Kate”, “Underground” and “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces”. Included was an extended version of his now famous “Bitches ain’t shit” – a cover of Dr. Dre’s rap classic, with much swearing and humour in a song that really shouldn’t be sung by a nerd like Ben Folds, but somehow he makes it his own. Quick on its heals was a cover of The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” with Ben using both the traditional piano and his new synth to great effect. He really seemed to be on a roll, with everything going for him – though this could be due to his own admission that “I’ve been sat on my ass for the last two months”

Then came the required sing along to “Army” – one of his biggest hits, Ben got the crowd to split into two to do the brass section of the song, which, with 5,500 people singing along to was quite something to behold. Throughout these closing songs he slowly built the songs up into bigger and bigger renditions, until the end of the set left us all gagging for more. However, as is always the way, the 11pm curfew rapidly swung round and it was time for Ben to leave, and for us to wait another year and a half for him to return to the UK.


1. Theme from Dr Pyser
2. Trusted
3. Gone
4. Synth improv including Freebird (and the theme from the waltons), leading into…
5. Rock This Bitch
6. All You Can Eat
7. Learn To Live With What You Are
8. Jesusland
9. Bastard
10. Still Fighting It
11. You To Thank
12. Losing Lisa
13. Landed
14. Bitches Ain’t Shit
15. Fred Jones Part 2 (Ben solo)
16. Evaporated (Ben solo)
17. Gracie (Ben solo)
18. The Last Polka (Ben solo)
19. Narcolepsy
20. The Ascent Of Stan
21. Army
22. Such Great Heights (Postal Service cover)
23. Kate
24. Underground
25. Zak and Sara
26. One Angry Dwarf

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