Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Fringe Day 3, Part 3 - August 8, 2004, 4:00pm

Philosophy: The Music of Ben Folds
Brown Bee Productions
Loring Playhouse

Hands down, most fun I've had at the Fringe so far - no contest.

I wish I could see all the remaining performances - and am tempted to upend my Fringe schedule to do so.

I have never had the pleasure of seeing a Ben Folds concert live but if I did, I can only hope it would be as much fun as this was.

Music feeds my head, particularly my muse when I'm writing. Since a friend introduced me to Ben Folds' music several years back, his voice, his melodies, and especially his lyrics have been a constant companion and inspiration to me.

The audience - I was wondering if perhaps this show only works if you're a Ben Folds fan, but I don't think that's so. Several of the glowing reviews on the show's Fringe page (be sure to click the link at the bottom to expand the window and read them all) were from people who came in not knowing much about Ben Folds, but left as converts and fans.

The music - How to describe his music? It can be loud and funky, it can be plaintive and heartbreaking. Just like you have any number of moods and modes of expressing yourself, so does Ben. The sense of humor, coupled with an almost breathtaking depth of feeling, combine for songs that consistently catch me off guard. Like a good book or movie or play, these are songs you can return to and find new insights, as well as the companionship of old friends. These are the kind of songs you can wail along with in your car at the top of your lungs, whether you're pissed off or blue or happy as a clam. I described it as "full-on, straight white boy angst music" to a friend recently but that really doesn't do it justice. The subjects of these songs are not just the concerns of young men or straight men. I'm gay and I'm certainly not...uh...moving on...

The performance - Brandon J. York, Tony Radecki and John Lynn (also amazing on piano) don't just love these songs and revel in singing them - they have the Ben Folds sound (intricate harmonies and all) down so well, it's spooky. This wasn't mimicry - this was channeling. It was amazing. It's how we all wish we sounded when we we're singing along to the CD in the car. Grady Kenevan on percussion looked like he was having so much fun, sometimes I'd just watch him. John Evans on bass was a quiet, still presence, but I caught a smile from even him now and again, peeking out from under the hair that perpetually hung down in his face. Taryn Radecki on violin - damn near broke my heart (and I mean that in a good way). There was an amusing slide show of snippets of lyrics and line drawings on random objects which accompanied the songs, as well as a handful of films playing in the background for certain numbers. An additional nod must be given to the performers on stage because, far from being upstaged by their technology, often I was so wrapped up in the song, I'd ignore the film and have to remind myself to look over now and again. These guys know how to orchestrate their own mini-concert - no matter where you were looking on the stage at any given moment, even if a person wasn't involved in the performance of the given song, their presence added to, rather than distracted from what was going on.

The only thing that detracted was some periodic problems with the sound mix, but I stress the word periodic. It wasn't a chronic problem, but when it happened, I wished I could go back and hear it the way they intended. Oh, the joys of live performance.

I had the pleasure of sitting near members of Tony's family during the show, and every time something went wrong, particularly toward the end during their rousing closing number, Tony's grandmother would lean over and go "You should have heard it last night, it was perfect." I felt like leaning back and saying, "Don't worry, I'm having a lot of fun, sound screw ups and all. They're the best show I've seen this year."

And now, I guess, I've said it.

Whether they see me at another performance or not, I do hope they keep me on their mailing list of people to contact when another show comes around. This was too much fun, and they're too good at it, not to do it again.

Catch one of their remaining performances and enjoy. I certainly did.

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit www.matthewaeverett.com)

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