It did not take long for each successive song to blend together, making the Ben Folds concert on Oct. 23 at Clowes Memorial Hall an experience, and not just a set list.
After opening act Filligar finished their final song, the amplifiers, guitars and keyboard were hurriedly scooted and shuffled off of the stage. The band from Chicago had a quasi-Indie sound, something reminiscent of Kings of Leon.
A Yamaha grand piano was left by its lonesome, with only a few microphones curiously configured on stage to keep it company.
A few moments later, Folds quietly walked up to his uncomfortable looking stool at the Yamaha to thunderous applause and hollering.
As the performer sat down, a crowd of 30 or so audience members jumped out of the make shift seats on top of the orchestra platform and clamored at the foot of the stage.
They were not 10 feet from the gleaming piano, which was constantly bathed in light from the scores of cameras and smart phones recording every second.
Folds kicked the concert off with the upbeat “Annie Waits,” turning from the piano to smile as the crowd clapped the beat and sang along.
One of the most striking things about the performance was Folds’ ability to switch from an energetic, floor shaking attack at the keys to a graceful, arrogant tapping, as if he knew how good he was.
It was surprising to hear and feel a sound wave from a grand piano hit the audience like a wrecking ball crashing through a concrete wall.
Intermittently throughout the performance, Folds let his personality shine through more than just his songs.
He took a moment to talk about his last performance at Butler, explaining how he was toying with an old school type of film for photography.
Folds was repeatedly heckled by an audience member to play “B—–s Ain’t Shit,” during which he showed nearly infinite patience for his own concert demographic.
By this time, I had climbed over and around the two rows of chairs in front of me—so close to the stage I could have reached out over people and touched it.
The beginning of Folds’ set featured tracks from his new album, “The Lonely Avenue.”
One of the more memorable songs was “Levi Johnston’s Blues,” a jam that laments the political spotlight on the Palin family.
Folds thanked the audience for listening and being patient with the new songs, even though it was obvious that a good handful of audience members may have only showed for a certain song or two.
Though the act blurred into a cohesive performance, a few shining moments gleamed among the rest.
Early on, I noticed two condenser microphones spaced apart on a carpet square not too far from the Yamaha.
I figured maybe the sound pattern on the piano was different and that the mics must have been there to pick up the piano. I was wrong—it was something much better.
During one song, Folds’ stage crew ran a drum and pair of sticks up to him.
Folds moved his hands away from the piano, grabbed the sticks and tapped away on the drum.
Then he ran to another part of the stage and hammered on the drum held up by his stage crew.
They ran to the carpet square, and the stage crew assembled an entire drum kit between two perfectly placed microphones.
The sheer amount of energy Folds exuded was immense.
If there was an indicator of the energy, it was the poor kick drum that would jump and shake with each heavy stomp from Folds.
As the concert seemed to wind down, Folds resorted to different stage gimmicks.
After teaching the audience part of a song, he jumped up from the piano and conducted them, just to sit back down and unleash his best up-tempo songs.
“Zak and Sara,” “Kate” and “Army” were the big songs Folds saved for the finale.
A multi-song encore followed, including the infamous cover of “B—–s Ain’t Shit” by Dr. Dre.
Folds had one Butler student come to the stage to sing the second verse because “it was too dirty” for him to sing.
With one last flick of a key, Folds walked off stage, closing not just a concert, but an experience.