BWW Reviews: Folds Spreads the Spotlight Around in Concert with CSO

Photo: Allan Amato

As a principal percussionist for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Philip Shipley is used to watching concerts from behind the oboes and the woodwinds. At the CSO's concert with Ben Folds on April 9, Shipley got distinctly different point of view.

Folds was orchestrating the impromptu piece, "Rock This B*tch," and asked the percussion section "You wouldn't happen to have any bongos, would you?"

After Shipley retreated backstage and re-emerged with a set, Folds told him "I want you to play them up here, on top of the piano."

To the shouts of "Bongoman!" from the Ohio Theatre crowd, Shipley used the piano bench to hop on top of the grand piano. His ensuing duet with Folds offering counter beats on the top of the piano was one of the many highlights of the two and a half hour concert. Folds even incorporated Shipley's new moniker into his nonsensical, stream-of -consciousness lyrics: "I've got the Bongo man, I play the piano. Here's the theme. It's pretty good."

During his 17-song set, Folds was center stage but he spread the spotlight around to the CSO, which he has performed with three times in the past seven years. He allowed drummer Sam Smith to open the show with the first lines of "Effington," and the audience in the choral arraignments of "You Don't Know Me" and "Not The Same."

Throughout his show, Folds drew from the various phases from his career to fill out his set list, pulling out "Brick," "Steven's Last Night In Town," "One Angry Dwarf," and "Smoke" from Ben Folds Five's WHATEVER AND EVER AMEN album and plucking "Jesusland," "Zak and Sara," "Fred Jones Part 2" and "Landed" from his solo catalogue. Mixing in these songs with luscious arraignments of strings and brass gave some of the songs a deeper, more poignant meaning than the original versions.

During the first half of the show, Folds' vocals were overtaken by the orchestra but that seemed to improve as the show went on. The flaws in the concert were few and far between in the concert. Ironically, Folds forgot the words to one of his most beloved songs, "Brick" which hit Number 17 in the Billboard's Top 40 in 1998. Folds turned to the audience who filled in the gap instantly.

Folds, who is on the board of directors for the Nashville Symphony, has used his concerts as a way of introducing a new generation of listeners to the power of the symphony. "We are surrounded by symbols," Folds told the Ohio Theatre crowd. "To me, the orchestra is a symbol of civilization. It's not about how much we appreciate what they do; we need the orchestra. I encourage you guys to come back and see the power of what they do when they play Beethoven, Mozart or, (screw) it, even the Nutcracker."

As Folds remerged for his encore of "The Luckiest" and "Theme from Dr. Pyser," a chant for "Bongoman" could be heard but Shipley remained in his usual spot in the back of the orchestra.

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From This Author Paul Batterson

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