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Story and photos by Gypsy DaveyFew come to mind when discussing cleverness behind skillfully crafted sardonically witty songs more than Ben Folds. He is infectiously warm, gentle and lovable. However, the dichotomy present between what you see and what you hear is stark to say the least. He will at times be somewhat lewd, and he's never too far from being crass. But it's that contrast that we love about him; it's what makes him enduring as opposed to off-putting.
He's the next generation's Joe Jackson. He's a freak of nature behind the piano with overflowing showmanship to back him, and it was all on display at The Rave Thursday night for his Milwaukee fan base. Touring his latest release Way to Normal, Ben wasted little time getting to the new material, and - by the crowd's participation - it was obvious that the new material apparently wasted little time sinking in. Oh-oh, Oh! Screamed the crowd after Ben dangled out the hanging lyric of Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hit His Head) "There was blood on the keyboard...Oh my God." And so goes the rest of the night in similar fashion. Rockin The Suburbs' "Annie Waits" brought out a caliber of clapping reminiscent to that of Steve Miller's "Take The Money and Run." The interplay between Ben and his audience is a sight to behold, and reached its peak for another from his latest, with "You Don't Know Me," where the whole place erupted with their part (in parentheses) to this lyrical thread.
I'm trying to tell you
It's not gonna come out like I wanna say it cause I know you'll only change it.
(You don't know me)
You don't know me at all
(You don't know me)
You don't know me at all (at all)
Overall, the show exceeded my expectations. What I knew of Ben Folds as a songwriter was dwarfed by what I learned of him as a performer, and I think he's near genius as a writer. I'll argue that there's not ALWAYS someone cooler than you, as much as Ben sings to the contrary.
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