Ben Folds with yMusic

Cape Cod Melody Tent / Hyannis, MA

Ben Folds with yMusic
Ben Folds with yMusic

I tried to overlook the 90-degree heat.

I tried to overlook the bugs.

I tried to overlook the half-round capacity of the show.

I tried to overlook the repetitive, angsty opening songs from his teen daughter, Gracie.

And I tried to overlook an unnecessary 30-minute intermission between opening act and actual show.

It didn’t work. The elements, be they circumstantial or intentional, were against Ben Folds and yMusic during this Cape Cod concert from the get-go.

I admit, I went into this concert with high expectations. See, I love Folds’ latest album So There. I have made my wife listen to it multiple times in the car. I have urged friends to buy it for other friends as Christmas presents. I love the fact Folds’ sound has matured to the point where he’s comfortable infusing his vulnerably yet snarky tunes with classical sensibilities.

I expected this concert to be full of life, not a set awash in rainbow mood lights played to a half-empty venue. Maybe it would have been different if Folds took this show to Boston, where the endless sea of college students would have made sure he was at home at either at the Berklee Performance Center, the Orpheum or even the Paradise.

I implore you, Ben, come back and try again and I’ll gladly give you a second chance.

With the six musicians in yMusic kicking things off with their minimalist Steve Reich-worthy instrumentation, the bearded Folds took the stage at 9:05 pm for 90 minutes and a baker’s dozen set list. Looking like Bruce Cockburn circa 1976, Folds stuck to the script with a trio of So There tracks, including the album’s title song, “Capable of Anything” and “Not a Fan.” With the back of his piano facing the audience it was sadly difficult to see (even four rows from the stage) his virtuosity at work.

Periodically sipping from a cup of scotch, Folds’ sophistication was balanced by a few doses of worthwhile humor – including “Rock This Bitch” transitioning into a tune called “The Well-Meaning Heckler” (inspired by his daughter in the audience) which then culminated in a hora-style musical frenzy. “Effington” was excellently peppy, while “Phone in a Pool” sounded like classic Folds – cynical and indifferent.

While Folds ended with two terrific numbers, both from his classic Whatever and Ever Amen album – “Song for the Dumped” and “Steven’s Last Night in Town,” it would have made more sense to switch their order. On “Dumped,” we briefly forgot about the heat and reveled in singing the album’s profanity-laden chorus.

Unfortunately, Folds and crew left promptly at 10:30 pm because of what venue staff described as a “noise ordinance.” That meant no encores.

Even worse, it meant a lot of us (myself included) trudged back to our cars internally singing “Dumped’s” “Fuck you, too” chant on repeat… and not in a good way.

-Ira Kantor

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