Ben Folds and yMusic Rocked That Paramount

2 Nov

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One of the reasons why Ben Folds has found consistent success over his now quarter-of-a-century-old music career is his musical malleability. Folds has now done everything from releasing successful albums with Ben Folds Five to collaborating with musicians like Regina Spektor and Weird Al Yankovich. He has created experimental literature/music compilations with writers like Nick Hornby and has even starred as an erudite judge in the NBC a cappella show “The Sing Off,” where he was able to show off his musical knowledge and pipes. Yes, Ben Folds has seemingly done it all. His next endeavor: combining forces with a classical music troupe with a penchant for modernizing orchestral music.

So There, released this past September, features several pieces with yMusic Ensemble, and might just be his best collaboration yet. Folds’ music, specifically his solo material, is adorned with elegant instrumentals that sparkle like bedizened clothing, but do not touch rococo overemphasis, instead including just the correct amount of tasteful musical goodness. In celebration of his new album, Folds just embarked on a tour with yMusic, and I had the opportunity to see them at the Paramount in Huntington, a beautiful club venue that is spacious and modern. The concert, like all Folds’ concerts, was conversational and effervescent; Folds is himself – like him or not – and this candor finds its way into his verbal ramblings and music theory rants.

Folds always garners a knowledgeable crowd and almost everyone in the audience was aware of Folds’ on-stage antics, which did not change – if anything they were highlighted – despite the appearance of yMusic, who created a U around Folds’ piano, which was set a little back on stage adjacent to the drums. Folds mused on stories that formed songs and the dangers of sleep deprivation, all while nailing every note and assuring that all members were held accountable, including himself – at one point he stopped the beginning of a song because he did not like his opening note. When improvising his always topical “Rock This Bitch,” he seemed to have fun challenging his panel of accomplished musicians with complex scales and pauses.

The highlights of the night were the band’s energetic performances of Jesusland,” “Steven’s Last Night in Town,” “You Don’t Know Me,” and, of course, the crowd-aided, encore song about a LSD trip turned born-again Christian conversion, “Not the Same.” Each song was played with such eager ardor; Ben Folds loves what he does.

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