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March 24, 2007\
Assumption College
Worcester, MA
By Jeff Beam

When I arrived at the Ben Folds concert in Worcester, MA around 6pm, I wondered if it had been cancelled. There was hardly anyone in line, with the doors only an hour from opening. Part of me wanted nobody to show up, making for an intimate show. But I'd feel bad for an incredible artist like Ben having to play for an empty house. By 7pm, the line had gotten significantly bigger, and the doors opened. I scored a spot in the front row, directly in front of Ben's bassist, Jared. A man named Eef Barzelay opened the show. The south-paw axe slinger looked a tad like Buddy Holly, only he wore a spotless white suit. He put on an impressive set and clearly won the approval of the now enormous audience. I was going to ask him after the show if he listened to Neutral Milk Hotel, but for his last song, Eef played Two-Headed Boy by that very same band. I think he read my mind.
With the cheesy 80's metal song The Final Countdown blasting over the loud speakers, Ben and his band took the stage and jumped right into the first set of their 2007 US Tour. They began with Theme From Dr. Pyser , a B-side from the Ben Folds Five era. The instrumental has served as a frequent opening song for many years, and it served its purpose well in Worcester. After this, Ben launched into his standard set from the past two years of touring. His standard set is made up mostly of songs from his solo albums Rockin' The Suburbs, Songs For Silverman, and Supersunnyspeedgraphic, as well as his now-famous Dr. Dre cover. Since this was my fourth Ben Folds show, I was hoping for a bit more variety. Instead, Ben played almost an identical set from any of the three previous times I've seen him. Those songs are all incredible, and every chance to see Ben play is a treat, but seeing him mixing things up every now and then would certainly make things more interesting.
Though the setlist doesn't always change, Ben does make sure to provide every audience with their own unique show. Mr. Folds is a master of improvisation, wielding the ability to create hilarious-yet-extremely catchy songs on the spot. That skill is one of several reasons why I consider him to be one of today’s best live acts. It turns out that Ben left off six songs that were originally on his setlist, but in exchange, the crowd was treated to a handful of impromptu songs and jams. One song was about basketball, one song was about learning how to fold towels at Assumption College, and one was an obscure 30 second Elvis cover. Ben appeared to be in a very scatterbrain state of mind, and it was fascinating to watch. Ben and Co. also busted out a cover of The Postal Service's Such Great Heights, a new addition to the setlist on this tour. Other newcomers were Kate and Underground, two Ben Folds Five songs that I had previously never heard live.
All in all, it was a great concert. Since it was the first show of the tour, it was fun to see the band members laugh and give each other funny looks when they messed up or even better, did something miraculous. For those in the audience that had never before seen Ben live, they probably thought it was the performance of a lifetime. For those like myself who have seen Ben on several occasions, mixing up the setlist wouldn't hurt, but any Ben Folds concert is a good concert. It had been nearly a year since I last saw him, so every song was a pleasure to hear. Ben was even nice enough to stick around after the show and meet a few fans. Despite the mini snowstorm, he posed for photos and signed autographs for the small group (myself included) that waited near his tour bus. Ben is playing at UMass in Amherst, MA on May 6th; I highly recommend that everyone should attend. I'll be there, seeing that every Ben Folds show is a delightful and unique experience.
By: beamer (posted 31-03-2007)
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