Okay, I should have finished this and posted it the night I started writing.
I got my Christmas present on October 27th (2009):
I went to see Ben Folds in concert at Liberty Hall in downtown Lawrence. A $35.50 ticket, and completely worth it. I've been a fan for years, and seeing him in concert was fantastic. I went with my friend, Mike Colvin. He wasn't very familiar with Ben Folds' work, but he came out calling Folds a genius, and I had to agree.
His opening act was Kate Miller-Heidke. Fantastic. Bought her CD. The CD is fairly heavily produced, but tonight it was her and a guy with a guitar, and they were great together.
Looking back ten months later, it was still worth the money ($35 per ticket). When we moved back to the USA, I had high hopes of seeing live music. Ben Folds is the only concert I've attended, if you don't count jr. high band and choir concerts. (Incidentally, if you do count them, for the most part you shouldn't. However, Central Jr. High had a pretty good choir, and their band and orchestra were not too bad, either. I fear that switching to a middle school format will blow that out of the water.)
Back to Ben Folds. He was fun to watch. It felt like he had just come over to my house to play for me and some friends. The first thing he did after sitting down at the piano was to take his cell phone and keys out of his pockets. He set them down on the strings of the piano, as it was propped open and the music stand shelf had been removed. He then realized that would cause problems, so he picked them back up and fumbled them around a bit before a stage hand could come out and take them.
He played and sang for a good three hours. I knew, or at least recognized, a lot of it, though I am still a couple of albums short of having his full catalog. The parts I didn't know were as fun as the parts I did. The amazing thing is that I think Ben himself had as much fun as the audience.
Folds sometimes caresses the music out of the piano, and sometimes he pounds it out. He reminds you that it is in fact a percussion instrument. I hope they checked afterwords to make sure the stage didn't have a depression where that piano got seriously beaten on.
It is common at concerts for the audience to sing along, but at a Ben Folds concert he insists on it for some numbers, and teaches them some special parts to sing. This clip of Ben singing Army catches the mood quite well. (Warning, he uses some naughty language in this song.) Right there in Liberty Hall, in downtown Lawrence, it felt like everyone in the room was singing as though they were by themselves in the car, driving down the highway with the windows down and belting it out along with Ben. Incredible energy.
So if you have a chance to see Ben Folds in concert, GO. You will come out bouncing and humming and thinking, "This guy is amazing."