Ben Folds / Greenville, SC / 2005

Ben Folds is easily America’s greatest modern songwriter.  He has a knack for creating characters that are easily relatable to people you know.  With the exception of Atlanta, this Australian by way of North Carolina rarely makes it back to the southeast.  It was this fact that made his Wednesday night performance at Furman University so exciting.  Despite the complete ineptitude of the Timmons Arena staff, Folds brought his first class character studies to life with an excellent backing band featuring Lindsay Jamieson on drums and Jared Reynolds on bass.  Jamieson and Reynolds’ backing vocals were perfect all night.  The harmonies were incredible and the playing was top notch.

The set was decidedly new school and few from Folds’ former band were played.  It didn’t really matter.  The fans were into the show from the beginning.  Opening with the Songs For Silverman track “Bastard,” Folds and company were straight up rocking all night.  He even performed “Jesusland” twice.  They first played the album version.  He then made a speech about how he got shot down when trying to pitch the song as the single.  He did everything he could do including rearranging the song to have a more pop feel.  The second go through was a much more upbeat affair that was simply hilarious.  The highlights included the recent EP track “All U Can Eat” and an incredible cover of the Dr. Dre classic “Bitches Ain’t Shit.”  He turned the Compton gansta rap classic into something that only Folds’ is capable of, a piano pop song with humor.

It was almost odd what happened next.  After the onslaught of the Dre cover, the backing band left the stage.  Folds was highlighted by the spotlights on a blackened stage.  He performed a version of the Ben Folds Five classic “Brick” that was every bit as emotional as it’s ever been.  He then played one of the greatest love songs ever written, “The Luckiest,” before having the crowd sing the horn parts for the classic “Army.”

After the band returned, the trio tore through 4 tracks from Rockin’ The Suburbs (“The Ascent of Stan”,” Zak and Sara”,” Rockin’ The Suburbs” and “Not The Same”) before ending the set with “Philosophy.”

Following a brief break, the band came out for the encores “Narcolepsy” and an incredibly rockin’ “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces.”

It’s a shame that Ben Folds doesn’t get around these parts that often.  He has such a vast back catalog of great tracks that he can’t possibly perform all at one show.  Hopefully he’ll be back very soon.  As evidenced last night, South Carolina loves them some Ben Folds.