Ben Folds | Photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

There are artists in every generation whose entire persona is a craft. They are top to bottom an art form. They are not a showman, a gag, a schtick, one-trick pony, or in any way easily categorized. Many names come to mind, from different art forms, and Ben Folds is one of my very favorites. He is a conversationalist, a comedian, a photographer, and for most of last night he was all of these in addition to being a musician.

A man that does not pander to the crowd, he not only enjoys what he does, but genuinely seems to enjoy just “being.” Folds has a catalog that can resonate with just about anyone, from the hardened emotional types, to the partiers, to the nonsensical thinkers, his songs can make you laugh, make you cry, and everything in between, while he himself seamlessly transitions from a guy you want to grab a beer with, to mentor, and back over to class clown, all in a single set.

His set at the Fillmore was no exception, for the most part. This was my first time seeing him with yMusic, having previously been to a solo show, and a Ben Folds Five reunion set. The piano is a powerful weapon in Ben’s capable hands. He can wield it like an expert swordsman when alone, as part of a rock band he brings a power to it that counters what any guitarist can accomplish, but with the ensemble that YMusic comprises, it’s something else entirely.

Ben Folds | Photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

Ben Folds | Photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

The strings, flute, trumpet, and clarinet come together and open the music up, let it breathe from behind the ivory confines, and add a layer of whimsy that wasn’t there before.  To top it off, the core members of Rob, Hideaki, Gabriel, CJ, Nadia, and Alex all seem to be loving every minute of it.  Not content to be just moving parts, they soak up each others personalities, and visibly feed off of it during every playing moment.  Throw Ben in the mix, and the entire mashup forms a visible body with music flowing through the veins bringing all of the pieces together.

If the evening had a failing, it was the arrangement of the players.  I was lucky to be directly up front for 3 songs, so I had a unique angle, but the setup must have made a lot of people feel a little left out.  Ben, who can be a very physical player, was shoved all the way to the back of the stage for a majority of the show, hidden behind a piano, and the YMusic players were arranged is such a way that all but 2 of them were mostly masked by their music stands and microphones.  Maybe a minor gripe, but still a noticeable one.

Openers Dotan brought a little acoustic flair to the proceedings.  The Dutch singer brought a friend along (though he lamented he could not perform as part of his usual six piece) to flesh out the fragile pieces.  His singer-songwriter style brings to mind Jose´ Gonzalez a bit, and had a melodic quality that transcended its genre.  I dug it a lot, and I think a lot of the Ben Folds fanbase did too, at least the ones that kept quiet long enough to listen did. (Seriously, why do people buy tickets to shows just to talk?)

Check out photos from the show in the gallery below.

Beautiful Mechanical
So There
Long Way To Go
Rock This Bitch
Not A Fan
Phone In A Pool
Music In Circles
I’m Not The Man
Song For The Dumped
Capable Of Anything
Steven’s Last Night In Town
You Don’t Know Me

Not The Same