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The magnetic sound of the piano, cynical yet sensitive core of their lyrics, and the killer performances Ben Folds Five delivers to long-time fans as well as new, is now compiled in a full fifteen live track album, simply self-titled Live.
Returning from a long hiatus in 2011, the rock-pop trio, comprised of Ben Folds on piano, Darren Jessee on drums, and Robert Sledge on bass, joined together for a 2012-2013 world tour that would help support their latest album, The Sound Of The Life Of My Mind (2012). The songs for Ben Folds Five Live were chosen from a number of different venues on their tour including The Wiltern in Los Angeles, The Warfield in San Francisco, and House of Blues in Boston, with shout outs, applause, and audience interaction throughout.
Though the album reaffirms the strong fan base Ben Folds Five developed throughout the years, there are always some disadvantages to releasing an all-live album. Songs including “Erase Me” lost the sharpness some of the other tracks were able to maintain due to the quality of the venues recording. In the simple nature of songs, some translate better live than others and this was a challenge throughout the compilation of the album.
However, even with these minor nuances, moments like “One Chord Blues/Billies Bounce” at The Wiltern gave the album a front row live and highly improvised performance audiences at home couldn’t experience with an all pre recorded tracks. Again in “Draw The Crowd” Ben Folds makes an appeal to the audience by telling them to, “Keep it going, keep the party going, even if the piano player can’t play, even if the piano player can’t play, keep the party going on,” giving the album a sense of honesty when it comes to the unavoidable mistakes that may occur on stage.
While Ben Folds himself often steals the show, the group as a whole included tight, well-rehearsed sets and sprinkled in crowd favorites such as the solid yet depressing “Brick” that backs away from the literal spirit of Ben Folds Five’s lyrics.
“Underground” and “Tom and Mary” brought on the sense of nostalgia from Ben Folds Five earlier albums like The Unauthorized Biography Of Reinhold Messner and Whatever and Ever Amen. For fans of Ben Folds Five who never got a chance to follow their tour in the past year, this album is a solid collaboration of venues and performances that is sure to please.