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Ben Folds
by Dan Grote

 Ben Folds recorded this live album over the course of his 2002 “Ben Folds and a Piano” tour, which served as a minimalist story-so-far retrospective of the artist’s career, spanning both his more recent solo material and that of his erstwhile band, Ben Folds Five, who for better or worse can be considered a one-hit-wonder thanks to the band’s only hit, 1998’s “Brick.”

 Though not quite a Greatest Hits Live package (What, no “Battle of Who Could Care Less,” no “Rockin’ the Suburbs?”), Folds manages to throw in some fan-familiar chestnuts, such as “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces” and, of course, “Brick.” However, having no backing band seems to limit Folds’ setlist somewhat, as the album contains more slow songs, weepers, and new material, including the breezy “Silver Street” and slackery “One Down.”

 Seeing as no live album would be complete without the proper clichés, some tracks contain Storyteller epilogues (“Not the Same,” “Brick”), some feature the audience on backing vocals (“Army,” wherein Folds directs the audience to be the horn section), and naturally there’s at least one cover (Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”). Perhaps the album’s liveliest performance is “Philosophy,” which Folds breaks up with part of “Theme from Dr. Pyser” and what sounds like Birdo’s theme music from Super Mario Bros. 2.

 VERDICT: Ben Folds Live isn’t necessarily a good jumping on point for newcomers, on account of there’s more to these songs than just piano. In essence, this seventeen song set is really more of an intimate gift for the hardcore fans, with more sing-a-longs than rockers. Some fans will just be amazed that Folds was able to pull off “One Angry Dwarf.” Look for a guest appearance by Cake’s John McCrea on “Fred Jones Part 2.”

 DVD ALERT: The live album comes with a limited-edition DVD of seven more songs, including “Eddie Walker,” “The Ascent of Stan,” and the slowest version of “Song for the Dumped” ever.

CD Info 

Ben Folds - Ben Folds Live
Label: Epic/Sony
One Angry Dwarf And 200 Solemn Faces 
Zak And Sara 
Silver Street 
Best Imitation Of Myself 
Not The Same 
One Down 
Fred Jones, Pt. 2 - (featuring John McCrea) 
The Last Polka 
Tiny Dancer 
Rock This Bitch 
Philosophy / Miserlou 
Luckiest, The 
Listen to samples and Purchase this CD online

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