On Mon. June 9, Ben Folds came to the Kauffman Center accompanied by an 8-man chorus and a drummer. The late 90s rock piano phenom blended flawlessly with the Kansas City Symphony.
Even before the concert began, it was decidedly a good one. The Westboro Baptist Church awaited outside protesting because Folds has been divorced 4 times, has a song about abortion, and writes about feelings.
As a middle-aged woman sang the WBC’s versions of popular songs, replacing the lyrics to “Royals” with hate-filled, homophobic ones and teens of the group took pictures of themselves jumping on rainbow flags, a mass of twenty and thirty-somethings meandered into the theatre to see the honest and straightforward Folds.
Even with such distraction, Folds and the symphony were on pointe in every way. Folds had written scores for all his music so that the sounds of string and woodwind instruments could seamlessly accompany his soft tenor voice and piano crashing.
On top of performing some of his biggest hits like ‘Brick’ and ‘Gracie’, Folds composed a song on the spot as he directed each line of the symphony to play a riff. He also conducted the audience as each portion sang a different part of the tune ‘Not the Same’.
Folds made it clear that one of the biggest reasons for this tour was to promote symphony involvement as well as Folds’ modern piano concerto, of which movements 2 and 3 were performed. Leading up to the lyric-less portion, much of the audience prepared for boredom. Afterwards, though, many were amazed at the raw talent.
One of the most important takeaways from the performance is most likely the reemergence of classical piano music structure. Folds was able to use the predetermined rules for a concerto to mold his own, beautiful take that will soon be a standard in the symphony world.
All in all, it was quite possibly the greatest hybrid many had witnessed. The performance took the best of the KC Symphony’s beauty and comfort and merged it with Folds’ fun and lyrics.
To end the show, Folds returned to the stage as the symphony left to crank out ‘Army’ and ‘Rockin’ the Suburbs’. The performer shouted f-bombs and filled in for the missing drumset by tapping on the microphone.
Who many have said to be the Elton John of Generation Y is quite possibly the most underrated musical genius of the 21st century. Folds’ piano talent that is usually only seen in the classical setting combines with his well-pitched voice and witty lyrics to create something remarkable.