Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

19Apr/1013

Concert Review: Ben Folds & Matt Pond – House of Blues – 4/15/10

The hardest job in music might be opening for Ben Folds. The piano man has well over two decades of performance experience under his belt – and a loyal fanbase that hangs on every one of his lyrical turns-of-phrase and thundering chords.

Last Thursday night in Cleveland, the warm-up spot fell on the shoulders of Matt Pond. Pond’s latest album (under his band moniker, Matt Pond PA), The Dark Leaves, is a lush affair full of strings, honeyed guitars and wistful melodies. Live, however, he opted for a stripped-down arrangement featuring just him and Leaves collaborator/guitarist Chris Hansen.

Crammed into the front of stage left -- Folds’ piano dominated the center part of the stage – the pair ran through a half-hour set of midtempo tunes. Pond’s closed-eyes and gently swaying body often made him resemble a young boy at a choir recital; reed-thin Hansen, with just a guitar and amp at his disposal, functioned as his silent, trusty sidekick. While the sincerity and beauty of these songs was never in doubt, the mellow vibe soon made the songs run together -- and the attention of the audience wander.

Folds is a dynamic, in-your-face performer who compensates for his sparse instrumentation with sheer charisma. Pond, in contrast, prefers to let his music speak for itself – a strength of his catalog, for sure, but a detriment when trying to engage a crowd waiting for a headliner. It’s hard to say if Pond won over any new fans; the indifference to his opening slot dominated.

Ben Folds

Folds’ performance – a mixture of sincerity, satire and dead-on character assessment -- was predictably good. This review sums up the night well. Having seen Folds multiple times (most of them when he’s performed solo) it’s still an awe-inspiring thing to see him command the stage with just his music and banter. His self-deprecating wit hasn’t mellowed despite his massive popularity (if anything, this helps contribute to the relatable, fun vibe of these shows), and his storytelling continues to be razor-sharp.

Songs from Folds’ last solo release, Way to Normal, came across much better than they did on record, perhaps because he’s had several years to work out the kinks. Highlights for me included “Annie Waits,” “Zak and Sara” and, of course, the massive sing-along to “Rockin’ the Suburbs” and the Ben Folds Five gem “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces.” Every Ben Folds show I attend, I rediscover a song of his I love. This night was no exception.

- review by A. Zaleski

Setlist:

Free Coffee
Annie Waits
Sentimental Guy
Effington
Time
Landed
All U Can Eat
Brainwasched
Gone
Bitch Went Nutz (Fake Version)
Levi Johnston’s Blues *
Picture Window * ( * = new tracks co-written with author Nick Hornby)
You Don’t Know Me
Still Fighting It
Zak and Sara
Steven’s Last Night in Town
Hiro’s Song
The Luckiest
Mess
Hiroshima
Rock This Bitch
Emaline
Secret Life of Morgan Davis
Army
Not the Same
One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces

Encore:

Rockin’ the Suburbs
Song for the Dumped

  • RndmThoughtsEsc

    Not a huge Ben Folds fan, but I love “Still Fighting It”… http://randomthoughtsescaping.blogspot.com/2008….

  • Matt

    Regarding your linked post – I'm with ya on “Still Fighting It.” In a time of transition that found me moving unexpectedly from the east side back to the west side, the “so weird to be back here” lyric definitely struck a chord. Folds has a good knack of doing that for me with his lyrics, going all of the way back to the first Ben Folds Five album.

    I've been a fan of most everything that he's done to date, minus most of Way to Normal (although as noted above, time and the evolution attained by playing the material live has done wonders for the tracks that he did feature from the album in Thursday's show), and all of “Brick.”

    “Landed” is my favorite Folds tune from the more recent stuff.

  • RndmThoughtsEsc

    Not a huge Ben Folds fan, but I love “Still Fighting It”… http://randomthoughtsescaping.blogspot.com/2008….

  • Matt

    Regarding your linked post – I'm with ya on “Still Fighting It.” In a time of transition that found me moving unexpectedly from the east side back to the west side, the “so weird to be back here” lyric definitely struck a chord. Folds has a good knack of doing that for me with his lyrics, going all of the way back to the first Ben Folds Five album.

    I've been a fan of most everything that he's done to date, minus most of Way to Normal (although as noted above, time and the evolution attained by playing the material live has done wonders for the tracks that he did feature from the album in Thursday's show), and all of “Brick.”

    “Landed” is my favorite Folds tune from the more recent stuff.

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