an open letter to the guy standing behind me at the ben folds concert, warfield theatre, 11/15/02


Dear Sir:

First of all, how'd you like that show? How 'bout that Ben Folds? Wasn't he great, singing up there, playing piano, all by himself? Kicked some fuckin' ass, wouldn't you say?

I had only seen Mr. Folds live one time previous, and it was impressive. Ben Folds Five was opening for Counting Crows at the Greek Theatre, and I had only a vague idea of who they even were. This was in the period before "Brick" was being played on the radio with the same frequency of Jane's Addiction's "Jane Said," which was really saying something back in 1997. Anyway, this was before Mr. Folds went solo, but he was already the man. What stuck with me, (besides him playing the piano with his stool, and Adam Duritz pausing for applause at the "Ben Folds on my radio" line in "Monkey") was how easily he went from funny songs like "Song for the Dumped" or "Underground" to ultra-serious works like "Brick." I think it was because he performs every song very whole-heartedly, and is good at conveying meaning with subtle vocal inflections. Still, this show was better. There was much more Ben than the first time. I was with my friends Cassie, Monica, and Bri. And, of course, I was standing in front of you.

First of all, I was so impressed that you knew all the songs, all the harmony parts, all the little spontaneous vocal flourishes from the albums. Even when Mr. Folds himself skipped, or changed those vocal parts, it was refreshing to hear you belting out those parts anyway, so all in the Warfield could hear. You matched Mr. Folds flourish for flourish, falsetto for falsetto, except those times when you didn't. Hearing you absolutely nail the high notes on "The Luckiest" was probably way better than being able to hear Ben anyway.

Your mid-song banter was also well-polished. It was reminiscent of the traditional gospel call-and-response to hear you echoing Mr. Folds' soft-spoken introduction of "Army" with a steady stream of "woo"s. When Mr. Folds began a minor-key rendition of "Song for the Dumped" with a short portion of Aerosmith's "Dream On," it was you alone in the crowd who had the courage to implore Mr. Folds to "rock it out." Seven or eight times, you implored. The only thing that entertained me more than the impromptu drum solo Mr. Folds did to wrap up "Stephen's Last Night In Town" was the charming manner in which you steadily repeated "Oh shit!", matching the percussion almost exactly.

To be fair, Mr. Folds contributed his share to the quality of the show. There were songs I'd never particularly cared for which I gained a new appreciation. I think I was humming "Evaporated" pretty much constantly until just this Wednesday. Mr. Folds threw in some notable cover songs, particularly his inspired choice of the 80's classic "Careless Whisper." Sure, it's never a bad joke to cover Wham!, but Mr. Folds has the ability to make the audience laugh with the irony of his selection, while still singing the song in a very poignant manner. For a brief instant, I believed that he truly would never dance again. Even though you "had no idea who the hell" Elliott Smith was, his cover of "Say Yes" was quite sweet, as was his request that, "if anyone in the audience knows this guy, tell him to get it together and put out another album."

Mr. Folds also encouraged audience participation in a few songs (not that YOU needed encouragement, you big galoot!). Watching him teach a hall full of semi-inebriated, off-key warblers to harmonize on "Not The Same" has convinced me that Mr. Folds could, if this rock star thing falls through, be the greatest elementary school vocal instructor since Diane Kamrin. You may have missed that part, as your tongue was pretty far down your girlfriend's throat at the time.

(On the subject of elementary school musical instruction, let me venture a guess that you liked to play the cymbals, man behind me from the concert. Cymbals that you could crash together, again and again, as loud and as often as possible. The maracas wouldn't have been sufficient for a man of your temperment. A kazoo would only emasculate your esophageal prowess. The best analogue to your concert performance would probably be the cannons of the 1812 Overture, but the cymbals are a realistic compromise.)

Many times during the show, I asked myself what I might have done to deserve such a talented and courteous general admission section neighbor as you, and I can't think of a thing. Except maybe when I yelled, "Duncan, you're my sheik!" at opening act Duncan Sheik, or when Bri asked me if I thought the dark-haired Duncan might be a "sheik-ano," or when Cassie requested "Barely Breathing" after every Sheik tune, or wehn Bri loudly referred to Duncan as "tres sheik," or maybe when I asked Monica if she thought he could rock us, and before she could answer, replied, "Dun can!" But that probably didn't really matter to anyone but us, and the lone Duncan Shiek fan in the audience (the girl you inadvertantly spit on while singing along to "Alice Childress") who was still in good enough spirits after his set to wonder aloud, "Should I go and try to get his autograph? I mean, it would be my third."

Anyway, dude, man, brah, perhaps our paths will cross again at some show. Until then, I'll miss your sweet voice, your amazing breath control, and your spastic, flailing arms. Keep working on the hand claps on "Zak and Sara" - I'm sure you'll totally figure out the timing by the next time Mr. Folds returns.

Sincerely yours,
Sean Keane

Set List for Mr. Folds

1. Don't Change Your Plans
2. Zak and Sara
3. Careless Whisper (Wham! cover)
4. Philosophy
5. Satan is my Master
6. Mess
7. Silver
8. Where's Summer B.?
9. Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head
10. Say Yes (Elliott Smith cover)
11. Golden Slumbers (Beatles cover)
12. Kate
13. Army
14. Narcolepsy
15. Alice Childress
16. The Luckiest
17. One Angry Dwarf and 100 Solemn Faces
18. Rockin the Suburbs
19. Stephen's Last Night in Town
20. Not the Same
21. Evaporated
22. Emaline
22. Song for the Dumped


shriek! what? ben folds was in town?! moan, covers head and crouches in corner. muttering misery.

last time i saw ben folds i got up really early and drove to vegas and my car broke but i still made it to the bally-ho!-tel or whatever and there were still tickets and i stood up next to the stage which was almost taller than my head. eeeee....! i love that man. i love him more than punctuation.

how did i miss this post? maybe it was before i became a cement horizon junkie. anyway, i am impressed with your karmic theory. maybe some of the concert goers i've been lucky enough to stand by have come to me as payment for our similar actions when "guster" opened for the bare-naked ladies once. a few samples:

"look at the lead singer's hair! it's so full of luster!"

"you better not sing one more song, buster!"

"he's really singing with all the strength he can muster!"

"i don't really like the rest of the band... just her!"

"this band's set is lasting longer than a filibuster!"

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Keane published on December 15, 2002 4:22 AM.

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