Home piano Ben Folds Enthralls Royal Albert Hall with Piano Pyrotechnics and Modern Musings

Ben Folds Enthralls Royal Albert Hall with Piano Pyrotechnics and Modern Musings

by Madonna

Renowned pianist and songwriter Ben Folds took the stage at the iconic Royal Albert Hall, delivering a performance that showcased his evolution from a subversive, punky virtuoso of the mid-90s to a seasoned elder statesman of music. Folds, often likened to Billy Joel’s snot-nosed little brother in his early days, demonstrated a captivating blend of piano pyrotechnics and reflective modern musings.

Once recognized for his sarcastic and subversive style, Folds has matured into an artist who not only ignites the room with his energetic performances but also engages in contemplation about the world, aging, and human relationships—all woven into irresistibly catchy tunes.

Though Folds has released only two albums in the past 11 years, his latest, “What Matters Most,” released in June, marks a return to form after the underwhelming “So There” in 2015. The Royal Albert Hall setlist predominantly featured tracks from the new album, including the humorous opener, “Exhausting Lover,” a witty narrative of an on-tour encounter that takes an unexpected turn.

A standout moment from both the album and the live performance was “Kristine from the Seventh Grade.” Folds dissected modern conspiracist thinking, particularly its spread through social media, turning what could have been an angry rant into a tender and beautiful expression of sadness. The band, attuned to the vibe, contributed to the emotional depth with restrained cello, harmonica, and delicate vocal harmonies.

The setlist showcased Folds’ versatility, ranging from the raucous “Effington,” reminiscent of his edgy Ben Folds Five days, to the crowd-favorite “You Don’t Know Me,” where the audience enthusiastically took on Regina Spektor’s lines. Communal harmony echoed in “Not the Same,” with the mainly 40- and 50-something audience embracing the spirited performance.

Folds’ band, featuring Tim Harrington, Paul Dumas, and Mandy Clarke, demonstrated exceptional skill, complemented by three guest performers. Notable among them was Matt Lucas, who delivered a creditable vocal performance on “Fred Jones, Pt. 2.”

In the central spotlight was Ben Folds himself—mesmerizing in his trademark black T-shirt, short hair, and glasses. Whether unleashing remarkable solos, reaching tender falsettos, or sharing anecdotes in a relaxed and confidential manner, Folds’ presence was a pleasure to witness in the vast expanse of the Royal Albert Hall. The performance affirmed that Ben Folds continues to captivate audiences, and his musical journey is one worth cherishing for years to come.

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