For a gig I almost completely forgot about and one where I was little worried about going to, I had a blast at the Ben Folds Five reunion gig on Friday. I'm a little wary of reunion shows, and in the past couple of years, the 90s indie rock nostalgia reunions are becoming more common place. We've has .that dog, Cibo Matto and Luscious Jackson will be back on the scene soon. To counteract that, that laughable line-up of 90s mainstream alt-rock band made me creeped out. It's was that Everclear, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms and Marcy Playground tour. All the bands I hated in college on one-stage!
When you think about, Ben Folds Five isn't much different from those guys. They had a mega-hit on the radio in the 90s and a devout following who have grown up and had kids. Then different with BFF is that Ben has been active since the band's last album, so it doesn't make the reunion gigs that much of a cash grab. Also they will release a new album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind, this week that will show the band in a new light. Re-experiencing the songs from their self-titled debut, Whatever and Ever Amen and The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, it showed how those songs were written by young guys who are now fathers and husbands (for Ben, four times over). "Song for the Dumped" where the narrator is yelling as ex-girlfriend to give back his black t-shirt is a little weird for a band of 40 year-olds
- Michael Praytor, Five Years Later
- Theme From Dr. Pyser
- Jackson Cannery
- Selfless, Cold and Composed
- Erase Me
- Uncle Walter
- Alice Childress
- Sky High
- Battle of Who Could Care Less
- The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind
- Do It Anyway
- Song for the Dumped
- ENCORE: Underground
- One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces
It's one of those situations where the band had to play their new material, while the crowd is waiting for the hits. Once Jackson Cannery kicked in, the whole crowd just woke up and started screaming. I have to go with the crowd here, I haven't really absorbed the new album yet, so I was waiting for Underground and Philosophy to be played. Brick was their mega-hit, and I've never liked that song. Even if it was their claim-to-fame, it's just a slow, kind of corny song. I know it's personal for Ben, but it's just not what I think of when I think of the Ben Folds Five experience.
Through out the show, I was remembering the two times I saw the band when I was in college. I do hand it to them because they were one of my introductions into the world of MusicSnobbery. And this was pre-internet. I caught on during the first album, which led me to their show at Maxwell's. Yes, the piano was on stage back then, they were practically on top of each other. Then when the second album came out, I saw them at Irving Plaza -- wasn't sure if was before or during when Brick was played 10,000 times on Z100. Back then, I was scolding all the people who didn't pay attention to me during the first album when I was saying that there's this band from Chapel Hill was the best thing ever.
As for their first NYC show in over a decade, they sounded awesome. Ben was enthusiastic and his usual jokey self, Sledge was playful and Darren was holding it down in the back. It looked like old friends getting together and jamming like old times. Just like solo shows, Ben told stories about the songs, observations, music noted about C sharp sand D flats and led the crowd in sing-along. At the end, he threw his stool at the piano.
The main thing I came away from the show was that Ben Folds Five has a wealth of material to play and plenty of "hits". Underground would be on a list of my 100 favorite songs of all time. Thus, the high point of the show for me was when it was obvious that the encore would consist of that and One Angry Dwarf. So, I submitted to the 90s nostalgia thing again, and I'll probably do it again for the next band from my formative years that will get together to take my money.