As it turns out, lots.
Yesterday marked my second Ben Folds concert experience. The first time I saw him was about 18 months ago. It was the Friday before his album “Way to Normal” was released. Ben concentrated heavily on the new album, playing all of the songs that were to appear on it, as well as alternate versions of those same songs. As enjoyable as the show was, there’s a huge difference between a guy playing songs you’ve never heard before and that same guy playing songs you recognize and can sing along with.
This time, he delivered two solid hours of songs I recognized and sang along with (with the exception of one song earmarked for his upcoming collaboration album with “High Fidelity” author Nick Hornby). It was easily one of the most fun and energy-filled concert experiences I’ve had recently-amazing considering there was no band-just Ben and his piano. Alternating between pounding the 88 keys with punk-like aggression and playing with a finesse that would rival someone playing at Lincoln Center, Folds reeled off a sea of highlights from nearly two decades of albums. There was no Chat Roulette, but he went all the way back to “Boxing” and “Underground”, from the first Ben Folds Five album. Of course, there was “Rockin’ the Suburbs” and “Still Fighting It” (although, somewhat surprisingly, he didn’t perform “Bitches Ain’t Shit”), and he even got the audience singing in harmony several times, grinning like a music teacher watching his pupils perform at a recital. Watching him gleefully conduct the audience put me in Mancrush mode even more.
As impressive and energetic as Folds was (this guy perspired through his T-shirt and he was just playing the piano-that should give you an idea of the energy level), I have to give extra props to his opening act, Kate Miller-Heidke. The Aussie singer-songwriter, joined only by her guitarist Kier Nuttall, delivered an enchanting 40-minute set. Cute with a little bit of crazy (and the voice of an operetta), she was the perfect accompaniment for a Ben Folds show. If I could have brought all three of them home, I would have.
Check out Ben’s performance of “All U Can Eat” from the show.