A Quick Recap of the Ben Folds Orchestra Experience in Detroit
A pop/rock pianist doing a symphony orchestra tour isn’t the norm.
A pop/rock pianist composing a piano concerto is something just above never. So when this all comes together in the same person….
Thanks to the sponsorship of Acura, the Ben Folds Orchestra Experience is happening all over the country. Folds is a director of the Nashville Symphony and is using this tour to introduce tens of thousands of his fans to their local orchestra and encourage them to become regular attendees.
The crowd was diverse. Some regular symphony-goers, families, teenagers, and people like me. People who grew up on Ben Folds in high school and college in the 90s and still are goofy/die hard fans.
I commented before the show that I was the only one wearing a tie, so Ben responded:
— benjamin folds (@BenFolds) October 15, 2014
It contained some of his newer music (the post Ben Folds Live album stuff) which seemed less familiar to the audience. He also played the third and final movement of his piano concerto which, DAMN. It’s good. He admitted before playing it that there isn’t a recording available, saying “record labels don’t get excited about piano concertos these days.” I hope beyond hope that you can get this someday. I can imagine listening to it a lot. Ben…vinyl please, at least in time for the holidays?
Standard orchestra intermission. Apparently if you talked to the Acura reps in the foyer you might get back stage passes. Not my jam. But the one rep had an awesome beard.
If I remember correctly, he opened with “Zak and Sara” which got the audience fully engaged. Powerful opening. He played another song or two (maybe Cologne was in this set ) including some explanations of where the songs came from. It was early in this set where he moved the microphone and prepared to give a speech, when the “Rock this Bitch” calls started. So he explained this tradition too:
On the Ben Folds Live album, somebody shouts “Rock this Bitch.” Ben says it back and vamps a song in a few seconds by the same name, cementing this tradition of composing a song with those words at each live show. Detroit with the DSO was no exception. It was impressive. He broke down the orchestra into sections, chose a tune, assigned progressions for his orchestra and choir, and had a song in less than twenty minutes. Behold:
They wrapped up the set not long after Rock this Bitch. I think Fred Jones Pt 2 was near the end but I can’t recall for sure (he finished with One Angry Dwarf). I was in Ben Folds love/trance at this point. See:
— Dean P. Simmer+ (@mojodean) October 16, 2014
Perhaps my favorite part was the standing ovation at the end of the second set. First off their seats? Those who are probably traditional orchestragoers. Made me smile.
Ben and then the orchestra left stage but the crowd seemed intent on getting an encore. Like, minutes and minutes of standing ovation. The orchestra is packing up their instruments, the house lights are on and they stay and applaud.
Perhaps he is doing this at every show this tour, I don’t know, but Ben came back out and gave us Annie Waits and Army as an encore. The conductor sat in the first viola chair and seemed to love it. I got this bizarre video as he ended Army.
Holy crap. I hope this does amazing things for the symphony orchestras in America. This was some of the most fun I have had at a concert in a long, long time. Throughout most of the show, you could simply look around and see how happy everyone was, smiling and singing along. On the way out, I saw a mom/dad/son combo that were definitely enjoying themselves and I asked the dad “so who is the bigger fan?” Dad smiled and said “well, I think I got passed on that list tonight.”
Bravo, Ben Folds. Bravo, Detroit Symphony Orchestra.