POP SONGWRITER DONS HIS CLASSICAL HAT FOR A NIGHT OF FIRST- RATE MUSICALITY
It must be nice for Ben Folds to walk on stage with an orchestra. He's got the full package this evening - a nice suit, a gorgeous grand piano and a polite, attentive audience.
Naturally, the best way to kick-start The Ben Folds Orchestra Experience is with an opening line we won't forget.
"If there's a God, he is laughing at us, and our football team!" Humorous words there, courtesy of Ben's touring percussionist at the back. It's actually a lyric from 2008's Effington.
A gangly individual with a dry sense of humour, Ben (47) has played a lot of roles in his career.
Band leader (alt-rock trio, Ben Folds Five, is still an ongoing concern), solo hit-maker (alas, there is no room for Rockin' the Suburbs in tonight's setlist) and, of course, celebrity judge on the popular US television singing competition, The Sing-Off.
But the North Carolina native also plays shows with orchestras.
Hence, every now and then, Ben is required to don his classical hat and rearrange those fun power-pop numbers.
That innocent, childlike vocal of his doesn't always hold its own against an enormous backdrop of violas, violins and cellos, but when it works, the results are astonishing.
He's quite the raconteur, too. Ben shares with us the story behind his 2010 album with British author Nick Hornby. Hornby wrote the lyrics, Folds contributed the music - end of story. I told you he was dry.
Our sardonic music-maker feels like he's in a "cage match", what with audience members seated on every side. We're his choir.
If there's one thing better than Ben's new classical piano concerto (a stellar feat of musicality, that one), it's his ability to lead his fans on a transcendent, harmony-infused sing-song (the dazzling Not the Same).
Gracie, a song about Ben's daughter, is equally spectacular.
Elsewhere, Jesusland makes full use of that aforementioned wit, and the local players accompanying Ben add an extra layer of depth and vitality to the marvellous The Luckiest. Full marks to our symphony orchestra, indeed.
You'd be hard-pressed to find another rock 'n' roller capable of writing a song on the spot. That's right, Ben Folds improvises an entire number.
It's called Rockin' This Bitch in Dublin. And it's great. Some man for one man, that Ben Folds. HHHHI