June 27, 2013
Record Reactions: Ben Folds Five – Ben Folds Five Live
Welcome to Record Reactions, where I share my thoughts on a new release from the worlds of popular and independent music. Today’s record is the live album Ben Folds Five Live by the newly reunited Ben Folds Five. Ben Folds and his buds have been a part of this alternative rock band off and on since 1993.
In October of 2000, Ben Folds Five broke up and went their separate ways. Front man Ben Folds arguably had the most successful post-breakup career, recording about six popular solo and collaborative efforts over the next decade. Included among those efforts was a live record called Ben Folds Live. The L in Live was an F flipped upside down. With this album, Folds validated the merits of his solo career with an intimate, captivating live set.
But as confident as Folds is and was, and as sure as his talent is, it was just a little sad to see him on stage all by himself for those years. Those harmonies that bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jesse provided were sorely missed, and his irreverent humor didn’t set as well without his buds there to laugh along with him. When news broke of Ben Folds Five’s reunion, everyone was ecstatic.
This live album, recorded on the band’s first tour in years, is a completely different animal. There are no intimate acoustic sets, there’s less heart-on-sleeve piano balladeering. This is just classic Ben Folds Five rocking out as only they can. If this live album is a validation of any sort, it’s in proving that Ben Folds Five is just as good as they were pre-breakup. Their first record after reuniting, The Sound of Life of the Mind, split critics down the middle and left many fans slightly confused.
But this set, that mixes old hits, Folds’ solo work, and new material, does the best possible job of showing off all of the good that Ben Folds Five has to offer. Maybe it’s just because I’m a bit of a super fan, but there’s something beautiful about hearing songs like Selfless, Cold, and Composed performed again with a full band and with a renewed energy. The jazzy, saucy chords of that track sent shivers through me on my first listen. And when they kick into jams like Uncle Walter, the power is as if a gun went off. One Chord Blues/Billie’s Bounce does a good job of showing a glimpse of the loose atmosphere and comedy that is always a feature of a Ben Folds show. And classic singles like Brick and Song For The Dumped are truly triumphant moments of recaptured glory.
There are few men in the world that are better at playing this style of fizzling piano rock, and it’s a joy to listen to. The live setting, where musical prowess and improvisational talents are highlighted, is where Ben Folds Five shines. And these old classic songs are just begging to be played again. So, whatever kinks or songwriting issues befall Ben Folds Five, we will always have their catalogue, and this record, to remember how good they really are.
Favorite Tracks: Selfless, Cold, and Composed, Jackson Cannery, Song for The Dumped
Remember these reviews are just my opinion, and that little number up there doesn’t mean much! Have you heard this album? What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with me? If you would like to let me know your opinion, you can hit me up on my email, or tweet at me @RobinCopple1. I am dying to know what you think! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on the flipside! Stay tuned.
Image Credit: Ben Folds Five