Ben Folds last performed in Hawaii 21 years ago with his band Ben Folds Five. Since that time he has released six solo albums, produced and arranged William Shatner’s album Has Been, produced Amanda Palmer’s (Dresden Dolls) solo album, was a featured judge on NBC’s acapella competition The Sing Off, reunited Ben Folds Five, premiered a commissioned solo piano concerto for the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, accompanied orchestras throughout Australia and the United States and was a National Geographic photo editor. You may say he’s kept his schedule full.
The Republik, in Honolulu, Hawaii was lucky enough to book Ben Folds and his solo “Paper Airplane Request Show.” Although he hadn’t played in the islands for years and hasn’t had a chart topping hit in over a decade a very large crowd welcomed the singer, songwriter, and pianist.
The show was split into two halves in which Folds played grand piano. The first half of the show was more traditional. Ten songs were selected which included newer songs such as “You Don’t Know Me” and “Landed” along with old time favorites “Walter,” “Annie Waits,” and “Still Fighting It”. The rollicking “Steven’s Last Stand” was the show stopping set closer. At the end Folds jumps off his piano stool and a full drum kit is assembled around him. The crowd was treated to a scorching be bop style drum solo.
During the brief intermission the crowd was instructed to collect paper from the lobby, write their song requests, fold it into a paper airplane, and wait for the countdown. On cue, like an elementary school classroom, the hall was filled with airplanes. Planes came in all forms and sizes. Some dive bombed from the start, others whoopee do’ed , and others with missile like precision littered the entire stage.
As promised, Ben Folds randomly picked up planes and played whatever was written. The set started off slow with “Fred Jones Part 2” but the pace increased with “Rockin The Suburbs” and “Spirits and Wine”. Unfortunately, no real rarities were requested. The majority of songs played were Ben Fold Five covers or songs coming off the Rockin The Suburbs album. The set concluded with “Underground” and “Not The Same”. Folds encored with “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solmn Faces” a song which is an “up yours” to Fold’s former elementary school classmates.
Before this show I had been unfamiliar with Ben Folds or his former band. The week leading up to the concert I listened to everything available and couldn’t wait to see Folds live. I was not disappointed. Throughout the show Folds exhibited his sense of humor with anecdotes between songs which kept the audience laughing. His self-depreciating humor made Folds’ stories all the more relatable. His piano playing style ranged from classically trained, to honkytonk, with a bit of “heavy metal“ thrashing for good measure. Folds kept the audience’s attention during the slower songs and helped us sing a four part backing vocal to “Bastard”. This was easily my favorite concert of this young year.
I’m positive, in the years to come, Ben Folds will keep busy with a variety of new endeavors. We can only hope that Folds does not forget to visit Hawaii.
01 Phone In A Pool
02 Annie Waits
03 Uncle Walter
05 Still Fighting It
06 So There
08 Not A Fan
09 You Don’t Know Me
10 Steven’s Last Night In Town
Paper Airplanes Requests
11 Fred Jones Part 2
12 Rockin’ The Suburbs
13 Sports & Wine
15 The Luckiest
20 Not The Same
21 One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solmn Faces
Outro: All By Myself (Eric Carmen)