Live Review: Ben Folds & The Sydney Symphony Orchestra

18 November 2014 | 2:17 pm | Kristy Wandmaker

Ben Folds & The Sydney Symphony Orchestra impressed

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It’s become a bit of thing for rock stars and songwriters to team up with an orchestra, rework their three-chord chart successes into over blown concertos and play a toffee venue. It’s all a bit twee really. Then Ben Folds does it.

Ben Folds went to university on a percussion scholarship. Ben Folds learnt the repertoire of piano pop pioneers Joel and John by ear. Ben Folds walks around reciting one lyric to himself all day – “mezzanine, mezzanine, mezzanine” – ad infinitum. Ben Folds is one of the biggest music nerds out there.

It was fun to see the straight-laced Sydney Symphony Orchestra play through pop like Steven’s Last Night In Town and Zak And Sara, but it was on Folds’ own piano concerto and the more majestic tracks like Cologne and The Luckiest that the spirited elegance of the orchestra shone. 

Brick was a little too Vivaldi’s Spring, all exultation and light rather than the drowning dirge the lyrics paint, but One Angry Dwarf And 200 Solemn Faces was perfection, all spiralling madness and simmering fury.

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As usual there was a call of “Rock This Bitch!” from the audiences, invoking the lifetime accord for Folds to make up a new song on the spot. He pieced together violas, cello, French horns, violins and drums to pull off a soul-inspired Rock This Bitch In The Morning. The way in which he was able to shout a few dah-dahs, play a riff, then have the orchestra sections follow was damn impressive. The audience member’s voice cracking during his solo on Not The Same may have trumped it though.

The guest appearance of opera virtuoso Martin Buckingham for the finale Narcolepsy was the zenith. After Folds’ plea with the audience to get along to another Orchestra performance, Buckingham’s performance provided unmatched incitement.