Thursday, August 11, 2005

Piano-Playin' Rock Geek

Noreen and I went to see Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright last night at Ravinia. She is a huge Folds fan, and had been looking forward to this show for quite a while. I'm passingly familiar with the both of them (Folds more than Wainwright), but don't really know that many songs from either.

First of all, I've never seen Ravinia this crowded. The show sold out completely (lawn and all) weeks ago, so the lawn was packed by the time we showed up (with pavilion tickets).

Rufus makes an impression more with the voice than the songs, although the songs are good. The voice is serious business, though. Unfortunately for Rufus, the one familiar song he played was one that had already been defined by an even better voice -- Jeff Buckley's. Rufus had apparently recorded "Hallelujah" for the soundtrack from Shrek (I thought it was John Cale's version, but I only saw parts of the movie). He did a fine version, but as far as I'm concerned, this song will always be Buckley's.

After a short break, Ben Folds took the stage as a 3-piece combo. The immediate question is, of course, bigger rock geek, Folds?or Rivers Cuomo? Tough call.

As for the show itself, let's just say that "Rock Piano God" is a limited grouping for a reason -- it is a tough gig. Nearly the entire set was played from a low crouch while banging relentlessly on the poor Baldwin (breaking a couple of low bass strings in the process). Dude must have a blacksmith's forearms. The biggest crowd reaction came from a Steve Allen-y note perfect Folds-ized cover of "Bitches Ain't Shit," but "Brick" had to be the real highlight of the show. I can't imagine that there has ever been a bleaker hit song ever written, but the emotion is real.

The closer was "500 Angry Dwarfs," and it rocked suitably. It was finished off with a piano stool toss and the house lights coming on. It would appear that the local noise ordinance precluded any encores, and to be honest that's OK with me. Of all the tired rock cliches, the "encore" is the most tired. Play a full set until you're done and we'll all go home happy and we can all dispense with the pretense.

The only problem with this idea, though, is that he might have used the encore to play Noreen's favorite song -- so no encore meant no "Luckiest." Bummer.


At 4:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

rivers rocks your fucking world


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