Written and Photographs by Jaimie Milburn
Having discovered the music of Ben Folds Five in my teens (and thus missing their rise and eventual decision to stop making music together in 2000), I was curious to see what sort of crowd the newly reunited three-piece would draw on a Monday evening in Toronto. The answer? A couple of generations actually. From teens and diehard fans lining the front of the stage, to twenty-somethings and middle age men sipping beers in the back, to families with young children in between it was truly an evening for all ages.
The evening itself was subdued with the folk rock stylings of Australian Kate Miller-Heidke opening the show, her musical narratives met with the simple acoustic guitar work of her one bandmate. With a sound reminiscent of KT Tunstall, Miller-Hiedke caught of the crowd off guard when she introduced her impressive operatic vocal range, a feat she carried through for the remainder of her set including during her cover of Eminem’s ‘The Real Slim Shady’, an obvious crowd pleaser.
It was when Ben Folds Five finally took the stage that the obvious importance of the impending performance came to light. While the crowd was appreciative with hoots, hollers, and applause it was generally reserved, hanging onto every word the Ben Folds had to say. Opening with “Michael Praytor, Five Years Later”, and spending no time running through new tracks from the recently released The Sound of the Life and Mind, the band was at the top of their musical game filling the room with the piano-rock-meets-funk sounds they mastered in the 1990s. The crowd was blatantly partial to older tunes including “Battle of Who Could Care Less”, “Kate” and the inevitable sing-a-long tune “Brick”, but had no complaints, eating up the over ninety minute set. Despite the lack of on-stage movement from the band (a piano and drum kit hardly allow for stage antics), the band engaged the audience between songs with Folds openly accepting the crowd’s heckling and even sharing an impromptu story about his first concert adventures after noticing a young girl on her dad’s shoulders. The entire evening will go down in history as a memorable one for both the young attendees and those Ben Folds Five fans who had had to wait over 13 years to see the band back in Toronto.