Ben Folds Five returns to spotlight after decade on hiatus

This past Tuesday at The Tabernacle, the 90’s alternative indie rock trio Ben Folds Five (BFF) reunited for the first time in Atlanta since their late ’90s concert at Tech. From 2000 onward, Ben Folds performed solo due to an amicable breakup of the group. Since 2008, however, things have started to come together again for the threesome, and the crowd could not have been more responsive than they were at Tuesday’s show.

[media-credit name=”Allyson Stone” align=”aligncenter” width=”1024″][/media-credit]BFF is comprised of Ben Folds on lead vocals and piano, Robert Sledge on bass and synthesizer and Marietta native Darren Jessee on drums and percussion. Some may wonder about the “Five” in the name not corresponding to the three members, but this inconsistency only adds to the trio’s infamous style of standing out. From Folds’ legendary bench straddle as he plays the piano to Sledge’s spontaneous beats on the bass and Jessee’s drumstick twirls, onlookers will never tire from this band’s routine.

Fans of all ages attended, from trendy teens to original devotees from the early nineties.

The mod red and navy asterisks painted on the ceiling paired with the crystal chandelier hanging  from it created direct warmth from the ostensibly brash spectators. The decor and audience added to the show’s experience.

Partly due to the intimate setting of The Tabernacle, and partly due to Ben Folds’s quirky, crowd-pleasing nature, the energy of the concert remained high throughout the night, beginning with the band’s new upbeat song “Michael Praytor Five Years Later.”

Between songs, Folds conserved the crowd’s relaxed yet responsive vigor by divulging amusing anecdotes, including the tale of his “thrift store polyester shirt” he purchased that day which made him “very uncomfortable,” yet he wore it anyway to make amends for postponing the concert that was originally scheduled for the summer. Claiming he doesn’t “succumb to the pressure of telling [expletive] jokes” between songs, Folds informed the audience of a felting technique he incorporated into the piano keys that makes the piano sound like a muted guitar; and, of course, he ended the aside with “Two dyslexics walk into a bra…”

Known for performing satirical songs at his shows as well, Folds at one point vocalized an impromptu ballad about Atlanta, bringing up references to Little 5 Points, Midtown and Tech.

The show had its moments of lightheartedness, but things became serious when the band played the fan favorite “Brick,” a song about the abortion Folds and his girlfriend dealt with in high school. The performance received mixed reviews from the audience, but Folds continued on without giving notice.

Further songs performed off their new album were the mellow ballads “Erase Me” and “Sky High,” as well as the contrastingly fun “Do It Anyway” and “The Sound of the Life and the Mind.” Careful not to leave older fans in the dark, classics such as “Landed” and “Emaline” were also played. The incredibly interactive Folds made sure that the audience harmonized together in the song “Army,” a traditional spectacle at most of his live performances.

With the time approaching 11, the band left the stage, but rapidly returned for the lively crowd  and played three more pieces. The ironic “Narcolepsy”, solemn “Underground” and fanciful “Big Angry Drawf and 200 faces a year” brought the eccentric show to a close.

All things considered, the lingering anticipated BFF reunion did not disappoint the alternative/indie rock-loving audience. Folds’ tangents of comical banter and BFF’s balance of sordidly amusing and somber songs, combined with a tight venue, made a simple Tuesday night in September a trendy treasure.