I’m such a fan of Ben Folds, already and forever. It’s a seated gig in the wonderful Brighton Dome. There’s a massive thunder storm brewing outside, but inside Ben and yMusic propel us to sunnier moods with their jaunty, blissful and energetic performances.
Ben Folds used to be Ben Folds Five, a perennial favourite of mine in the time of CDs. But I’d never seen them live. It’s thrilling, to be in the packed out stalls and to see yMusic as well as Ben Folds. A little bit about yMusic – they are a six piece group of instrumentalists from New York, they mix classical and pop music genres. And they are awesome. They aren’t just a little bit good; they are like a crack of tremendous thunder but in music form. You get an idea of their sound by reading this list of instruments: flute, viola, violin, cello, trumpet and clarinet – add expert and experimental musicians. They are seated, but their performance soars.
There are these tiny moments, like when the trumpet player fits the mute in between notes and then for a second or two he plays it. It’s like this extraordinary and delicate game between all the instruments, plus a percussionist and Ben on the piano and mic. The set is close to two hours long and the band plays new tracks from the 2015 album So There as well as classic tracks from the Ben Folds Five era including Steven’s Last Night in Town. There is a long, gritty, bluesy, beautiful solo from the clarinet. It is jaw-drop brilliant.
I don’t know what it is about Ben’s voice but it makes me feel happy and I want to really listen to what he sings. This is particularly true when he is hollering through the lyrics to Song for the Dumped, and when he gets the crowd to sing along. I always enjoy the resolutely American feel, and the piano solos that punctuate the emotions of the lyrics.
There is a belief on stage and in the audience, one that actually isn’t about guitars or drums or machines; it’s about live music. Live musicians delivering with punch, with inventiveness, a team effort, not the effort I’m used to seeing in many aspects of everyday life and one with this instant wonderful outcome.
Ben plays an encore solo and yMusic return with the promise of the best encore that we had ever heard. Pouring out then, onto the wet streets of Brighton, there is a feeling of expectations surpassed. I want to say ‘don’t stop singing’, you know, not tonight, it’s too awesome. The musicians took a bow to the music of the National Anthem as they finish their only show in Brighton and move onwards to Cambridge before they continue their European tour in Holland.
Ben Folds and yMusic’s latest album ‘So There’ is out now.
Find out more about yMusic here.
By Lou Clement