THERE’S nothing as infectious as someone appearing to have an absolute ball of a time on stage – and tonight at the Bandstand, veteran indie songsmith Ben Folds is doing just that.
Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow
A giggling, charming entertainer in a flat cap, who promises “no ass will remain unkissed tonight” and proceeds to recall speed-designing the artwork for his first hit album in a Glasgow copy shop after a previous gig at King Tut’s, Folds is clearly determined to give everyone a good time.
Not content with his new collaboration with New York classical ensemble yMusic, who provide elegant counterpoint to his piano and drummer Sam Smith, he enlists the crowd to harmonise backing vocals on various songs, creating a lovely effect in the amphitheatre, and insists they also learn individual sound effects for each musician. The strings, flute, trumpet and clarinet arrangements work equally well on tracks from Folds’ latest album, So There, and older songs, showcasing the theatrical nature of much of his work.
Old favourite Steven’s Last Night In Town becomes full-on 1940s style swing, while the rockier Army is transformed into a romp. An attempt to start Phone In A Pool, from his current album, is waylaid by audience demands for Rock This Bitch, a sort of recurring improvisational song which Folds turns this time into an sung-through anecdote about discovering his schoolteacher was a groupie, ably followed by yMusic whose ability to keep up with his quick-fire instructions is impressive.
For all his bonhomie, Folds’ best songs are reflective, like the lovely new ballad I’m Not The Man, written for Al Pacino’s rock star film Danny Collins but oddly rejected, or the heartbroken Mess from 1999. But despite apologising for having too many downbeat songs, this was hardly a sombre evening and more like a party in the park.
Seen on 14.08.15