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Story and Photos By Andrea Dawn GoforthBen Folds was in his usual key-smashing form on Monday night at Chicago's Vic Theater. Without a band, the show was aptly named "Ben Folds and a piano," and featured only Ben, center stage on an old Steinway and Sons grand piano. Throughout the night, Folds not only displayed his beastly piano skills, but also his humorous side, entertaining the crowd with stories and impromptu songs.
Folds took the stage to a screaming crowd, nodding and giving a little wave as he sat on his drum throne that replaced the usual piano bench. He spent the first two songs tickling the ivories instead of beating them, opening with a cover of "Say No" by The Smiths, and then moving into the quirky, upbeat "Annie Waits." After the first two songs, Folds began the comedy portion of the evening by apologizing to the photographers for being so boring. Offering to do something more interesting, he stood for a couple of "rock star" poses and then pretended to unzip his brown pants. An excited female audience member yelled "take off your shirt, Ben!" He declined on account of some unsightly tattoos.
Ben pulled out some crowd favorites throughout the night, like the radio hit "Landed" and energetic "Jackson Canary" where the piano took a considerable beating. But the song of the night had to be the impromptu blues song Folds felt inspired to write by being back in Chicago. Someone in the crowd yelled "Rock this B%$^*!" as Ben laid down some bluesy chords. That phrase became the title of the blues song that Folds improvised on for 10 minutes, with lyrics of random musings about Chicago and things that give Ben the blues. And in typical Folds fashion, it was beautifully laced with a plethora of four letter words.
The only bummer of the night was that Folds was increasingly unhappy with the piano provided by the Vic Theater. Giving everyone a little piano lesson, Fold's apologized that the thing was out of tune, had no dynamics, and gave a list of restoration work that the old Steinway could use. He then made light of it, and said he would just have to really pound on the thing to get a good sound, and he did (Folds requested a different piano for the following two night's shows).
Ben Folds was a consummate entertainer the whole evening, jumping to a drum kit for a slamming solo (Fold's played drums before taking on the piano), beat boxing on his microphone, actually having conversations with audience members, and of course, displaying some of the most impressive rock piano licks of our time.
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