Live Review: Ben Folds & The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra

16 December 2014 | 1:27 pm | Imogen Elliot

Ben Folds delivers a high quality performance in Tasmania.

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Infectious vocals and skilled composition is what makes Ben Folds’ music so listenable. Even when muffled by the sound of wind gushing through an open car window during summer, his music is alive and you can’t help but sing along.

After spending decades in and out of the pop charts, Folds has combined his pop hooks with a love of orchestras and the result is an affecting combination of late ‘90s pop-rock nostalgia and contemporary symphonic mastery. Playing last night with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in Hobart, Folds displayed a maturity and level of talent that added another dimension to his songs. Folds isn’t a musician who has changed, he’s an artist who has evolved.

Folds sat down at his black grand piano, getting straight into his 2008 song, Effington. As an opening performance it was wildly energetic with Folds’ piano notes dancing through the brass and string sections like butterflies in a technicolour forest.

While Folds and the orchestra, led by Nicholas Buc, performed a near-flawless first half, by a few songs in there was a stillness in the audience – the stage seemed removed from the revellers gathered to watch. It felt like Folds and the orchestra were playing for each other, their sounds swirling above them on stage rather than projecting out to the audience. There’s no denying that Folds’ performance of part two and three of his piano concerto were excellent, but it didn’t seem that the audience had been moved by the music.

After taking a brief intermission, the performance continued and the audience/performer dynamic took a magical turn. Folds shared witty anecdotes, laughed at his incomprehensible setlist and got the audience engaged in an empowering singalong. Someone shouted “rock this bitch” from the audience and Folds was forced to come up with a new song on the spot. Directing each section of the orchestra he seamlessly put together a cover of Amanda Palmer’s Map Of Tasmania and impressed the crowd beyond comprehension. Following with One Angry Dwarf And 200 Solemn Faces, the crowd was full of enthusiasm as Folds exited the stage.

It was clear an encore performance was needed and after minutes of applause Folds re-entered and played his hits Brick and Army. For this he received a standing ovation and after leaving the stage the orchestra conductor took his bow and the crowd began to disperse in clusters of discussions about the high quality performance they were so lucky to see on yet another rain-soaked summer’s eve in Hobart.