Ben Folds makes his audience a priority at Club Zoo

Written By Nicole Chynoweth

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A monstrous line of music lovers piled into Club Zoo on Thursday Nov. 11, 2010 to witness the vivacious showmanship of piano rock god Ben Folds, of both solo and Ben Folds Five fame. He came to Pittsburgh as part of his Lonely Avenue tour, which promotes his latest album “Lonely Avenue.” For the album, Folds wrote music for lyrics created by English writer Nick Hornby. An extraordinary fusion of his new and old work flowed out of Folds with his blending of fan favorites and his latest material.A bassist, drummer, keyboardist who doubled as a French horn player and guitarist who tripled as a percussionist and tambourine man accompanied Folds and his Baldwin piano. Every band member joined in on the vocals. A brotherhood-like connection could be seen between them as they played, with their eyes constantly sharing knowing glances.”A Days Work,” from his new album, acted as an energetic introduction not only to Folds’ musical prowess but also to his band’s impressive skill. Their pristine articulation ensured the concert’s high level of musical quality.The piano roared with bold chords while Folds alternated between new songs like”Saskia Hamilton,” which exhibited Folds’ wild performance energy, and older songs like “Gone,” an example of his passionate piano-playing and bright melodies.Several instruments were used to enhance every song by adding unexpected sounds to them. At various times, Folds banged his microphone with maracas and whipped out a red keyboard to incorporate synthesizer-like sounds. His dedication to making every song better than the audience had ever heard them before made the $32 ticket cost feel completely worth it.  The night was like a casual jam session due to Folds’ relaxed interaction with the crowd and tendency to play what felt right, which included a lot of improvisation. He would high-five the front row at the end of a song only to jump back on his piano to hammer out another riff. He even covered Ke$ha’s “Sleazy,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” and the theme from Tetris, which added to the widespread fun vibe in the club.The audience’s participation and Folds’ efforts were made equally important as he encouraged everyone to sing along, especially when he forgot a few lines from one of his older tunes. He allowed the audience to determine the course of the set list, playing “Army” and “Kate” as fans screamed relentlessly for them. He did an exceptional job at making the success of the night very much a group effort.Folds brought his top game to Club Zoo. Not only did his lively performance provide the audience with stellar renditions of their favorite piano jams, but it also showcased his commitment to satisfying his fans. He stayed true to himself by performing his new album and stayed true to his fans by playing all of the heartfelt lyrics and power chords they were dying to hear.

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