Until the release of The Sound Of the Life Of The Mind in September it had been a long 13 years since Ben Folds Five released an album, and almost that long since they played live together, so to say their return to a Birmingham stage is highly anticipated may just be understating it a little. And sure enough, as the three-piece enter the stage bang on 9pm, the response from the crowd lets them know they’ve been missed.
Tonight’s gig isn’t really about the spectacle. Our intrepid threesome barely move from their designated positions for the duration of the set. Indeed, with Folds himself on piano and Darren Jessee on drums, it’s only really bassist Robert Sledge who even has the freedom to move around the stage. Tonight is much more about the songs. And that’s just fine, as Ben Folds Five have plenty of gems in the back-catalogue and their lengthy set tonight will guarantee that long-time fans, together with those witnessing their first Ben Folds Five gig, will be more than satisfied.
The classics begin early and just keep on coming with highlights including The Battle Of Who Could Care Less, One Angry Dwarf & 200 Solemn Faces and the superb Brick. The new album gets its fair share of the limelight too, with the gorgeous Sky High being a personal favourite.
Throughout tonight’s gig the musicianship on display from all three band members is nothing short of breathtaking. Folds in particular proves himself to be a quite brilliant pianist, whether he’s performing a stirring ballad such as Thank You For Breaking My Heart or thrashing out the chords on triumphant set-closer, Army.
At over 2 hours long, tonight’s gig was a fantastic reminder of everything Ben Folds Five do better than anyone else. Let’s hope it’s not another 13 years before they grace UK stages again!
Review & photos – Steve Gerrard