Gig review: Ben Folds Five, Academy, Glasgow

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DISBANDED for much of the 2000s while their titular singer, songwriter and virtuoso pianist pursued a solo career, Ben Folds Five reformed last year, and there’s evidently no little appetite for the return of their quirksome, scrappy, keys-driven indie rock.

Ben Folds Five

Academy, Glasgow

Star rating: * * * *

The North Carolinians’ first UK tour in more than a decade saw them pack the biggest venue they’ve yet headlined in Scotland. Fans have also dipped into their pockets to crowd-fund a new album The Sound of the Life of the Mind – BFF’s first LP of originals since 1999.

With Folds’ songwriting having gotten heavily AOR-orientated recently, many fingers must have come crossed for a delve into his band’s sparkier earlier material – particularly 1997 breakout album Whatever and Ever and Amen.

Fortunately the set list struck a good balance between then and now. Draw A Crowd was a return to vintage ivories-bashing form, among droopier picks from the new album. The harmonic Battle of Who Could Care Less kicked things up a gear, before brutally frank ballad Brick – BFF’s most recognisable number – built tension for a rousing pre-encore blast through Kate and 1996 debut single Underground.

Song For The Dumped saw Folds depart his stool to conduct a joyous crowd-sung final holler of its highly quotable chorus “give my money back you b***h/and don’t forget to give me back my black T-shirt”. The massed voices backing Army at the close suggested this reunion could march on yet.

Malcolm Jack