As a solo artist, Ben Folds had spent years trying to separate himself from his past and find footing as a solo songwriter. While success came and fans stayed, it was hard to overlook his preference for the three-person lineup.
Sure, there were solo piano tours, pop albums and orchestral scores in between, but five years after the demise of the band that gained him the fans, Ben Folds wrote Songs For Silverman. His finest solo effort yet, and essentially a Ben Folds Five record in disguise. Distorted bass and all. The only thing missing were the original members.
Fast-forward six years, numerous backing band changes and a Myspace live-stream event later, and Ben Folds finally has the band back together, and last night for the first time in almost thirteen years, Ben Folds Five had a concert in Toronto.
Touring in support of their long-awaited fourth full length record, The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind, Ben Folds, Darren Jessee, and Robert Sledge were determined to show the world that they weren’t a band cashing in on sentimentality. Instead, they were a band that was doing it for real, for the second time.
The set list had a “one for us, one for them” rule. Going back and forth between new songs to classic tracks. Not only drawing from their now-classic albums Whatever And Ever Amen, and The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, but even a number of unreleased older tracks and b-sides. Although it was clear why the fans were there, everyone was surprisingly receptive to the new material. After all, even if unfamiliar, it was refreshing to see the three interacting as a band again.
Although Folds always played a number of band tracks within his solo tours, it wasn’t ever a substitute for the real thing. Much of the charm behind Ben Folds Five lies within the three-part harmonies. At best, it was akin to seeing Mike Love on tour without the Beach Boys. Close, but no cigar.
On hiatus for thirteen years, many in the audience may have seen an old favourite for the first time. Fortunately, if last night was any indication, Ben won’t be going solo any time soon.