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Ben Folds returned to The Egg Center for The Performing Arts this past Monday, September 26. As an audience member shouted and reminded him, he had not played in Albany since 2009.

Since then, Folds has released several albums including his most recent, “So There”, a classical album with New York chamber sextet yMusic. While the album features accompaniment from the orchestra, Folds’ current tour is quite different. He plays each show with just a piano, and his foot tapping to keep time. While watching Folds play each song, it became ever clearer why this man has become such a famous name in music. His piano playing looks and sounds truly masterful, and he works the crowd with ease. 

An incredibly intimate show, Folds spoke to the crowd between nearly every song, asking them to sing parts of it with him, and giving personal backstories on each song. These stories ranged from humorous to chilling. Folds got a laugh when he told the crowd that the lyrics of “Cigarette” are actually just a run-on sentence he read in an Asheville, NC newspaper, and then tried to recite it. However, he also told the crowd that “Not a Fan”, a song about different tastes in music ending a relationship, was written after reflecting on an incident that occurred after his Ben Folds Five single “Brick” became a hit. Folds recalled a man coming backstage and asking him what the song was about. When Folds said he didn’t want to talk about it, the man pulled out a knife, only to be tackled by Folds’ tour manager.

Adding to the intimate feeling of the show was the return of a tradition at Ben Folds concerts; paper airplane requests. After about eleven songs, the audience was informed that Folds would play another and then there would be an intermission. In the lobby there would be paper. The audience should write a song they wanted to hear on page, and then fold the page into a paper airplane. After the intermission, there would be a countdown and to throw the airplanes up onto the stage.

Once it was covered with planes, Folds returned to the stage and picked up planes at random, assembling a set list. It’s a unique experience to be able to influence what is played during a concert, and it added to the night’s feeling of being one-on-one with Folds.

Among the requests were fan favorites from his days in Ben Folds Five such as “Underground” and “Philosophy”, and some of his most famous solo records like “The Luckiest”. Folds got his biggest laugh of the night telling a story about a time when he was an opening act for John Mayer. He had been playing a piano cover of the Dr. Dre classic “Bitches Ain’t Shit” on many of the tour stops, and occasionally the song would be met by boos from the crowd. Monday night, he picked up two paper airplanes in a row, both with “Bitches Ain’t Shit” on them. One night on the John Mayer tour, he played the song, was booed, and then told the crowd, “I’m going to play this song again, and you will sing along or I’ll play it a third time”. At the Egg show he played it and the audience sang along. After he finished it, he started it again and was met with an uproar of laughter from the crowd.

After finishing his fan-made set list, Folds held up another paper, and informed the audience he would play “one more song, ‘One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces’, walk off stage, pretend there would be no encore, come back out, and play one more song”. That was exactly what he did. He finished off the night with the one of the most powerful Ben Folds Five songs, “Army”, and had the audience sing parts of it with him. He closed the show by showcasing how gifted he is as a performer, through the music he played, and through how well he connected with his crowd.

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