COUNCIL BLUFFS — One of the last times Ben Folds Five performed in the area, it was at the now-defunct Ranch Bowl.
“It's really great to be back here,” bandleader Ben Folds told the audience at Stir Concert Cove. “I haven't been back here with Darren and Robert in 14 years.”
Thursday's stop was part of the trio's reunion, which is going extremely well, judging by the reaction of the thousands at the outdoor show.
Having a top 10 album after a 13-year break doesn't hurt either.
While Folds has been a prolific solo artist — and some of his most famous songs were written when he was all by himself — the band stuck to Ben Folds Five songs, including popular tunes such as “Landed,” “Brick” and “Army.”
Fans ate up the experience and many sang the tunes — even Folds would occasionally defer to the audience and have them finish a line.
Folds sounded grateful for the audience's love, and made sure to say “Thanks y'all” after nearly every song.
With the windows of the Harrah's Casino Hotel backing the stage, Folds waved to a few hotel guests. For one man, who stood silhouetted in the room's yellow light, he even sang a spontaneous song. The audience laughed at the “lovely silhouette” tune, which went on for a few minutes and was surprisingly good for a tune he whipped up on the spot.
While some of the songs from the band's latest album, “The Sound of the Life of the Mind,” worked well (some fell flat, too), it was the old tracks — “Kate,” “Battle of Who Could Care Less,” “Army” and others — that got the crowd going.
A lot of the songs work because they're about regular people performed by three regular-looking, extremely talented dudes. They tap into emotional situations, happy and sad, that have probably happened to everyone.
Take “Song for the Dumped,” one of the best breakup songs sung from the male perspective ever. Almost every guy there, probably many of whom had been dumped after a date, was shouting the lyrics at the top of their lungs.
Folds' piano work was exquisite as he deftly moved between peppy pop, stirring staccato tunes and a couple of songs that sounded like chase music for a silent film.
He also employed a few tricks at times when most piano players would simply turn to a synthesizer. But Folds kicked it on a baby grand. During “Sky High,” he stuffed pedicure toe separators between the strings to mute some. It was an excellent, practical effect that gave the song a dynamic sound.
I've seen Folds perform solo a few times, and his talents shine when he's the only guy on the stage. You'd wonder why he'd get back together with his bandmates when he could continue to go it alone, but they add a ton of depth with their playing and especially with the vocal harmonies they inject on almost every song.
As many of the fans in the audience could attest, it's good to have them back.
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