Ben Folds Five finish their tour in style at the O2 Academy Brixton
After 13 years, Ben Folds Five have finally returned to the UK. The alternative rock trio went on hiatus back in 2000 and have reformed around three times now. This year they reformed for a new album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind, and a reunion tour that finished here in Brixton.
The audience drift in during the two support acts and eventually fill the venue in time for the band’s first song. You could see these are die-hard fans that have been waiting for this return for years. When Folds asks if anyone was at their first ever London gig, about a third of the audience screams: “Yes!”
The focus is on frontman Ben Folds. Both drummer Darren Jessee and the bassist, Robert Sledge, are overshadowed by Folds’ extraordinary voice and phenomenal piano skills. At times it becomes a solo act. However, there is a mutual unity between all three. The band seems closer than ever and each member brings something to the stage.
Sledge’s multi-instrumental abilities give the trio a varied sound, and the songs would fall apart if it was not for Jessee’s drums. But it is mainly The Ben Folds Show – he is the only one who speaks to the audience and he moves the show on. His energy on stage alone keeps the gig alive. Even his body language reflects the mood of the song during slower tracks such as Selfless, Cold and Composed as he sits calmly on his stool and plays the piano gracefully. Whereas for the louder tracks, he adopts a runner pose and beats the piano ferociously.
Yet there seems to be something missing; apart from a handful of songs the audience stay quiet. It’s not until Landed from one of Folds’ solo efforts that the audience start to sing along. Surprisingly, it is the new material that brings the audience alive. New single Do It Anyway would only have caused more of a stir than if The Fraggles, who appear in the music video, turned up on stage. However, the pinnacle moment was Brick from their Whatever and Ever Amen album. The whole audience joins in with the vocals and even some start to sway. It is the moment where everyone realises how brilliant Ben Folds Five can be, and is a sign of what could be a triumphant return.
Photos: Adam Imiolo
Watch the video for Do It Anyway featuring The Fraggles here: