Ben Folds Five
The Tabernacle, Atlanta • 6.14.98
If there’s one thing Ben Folds Five doesn’t have, it’s a good tour schedule. Coming as close to South Florida as they were ever going to before heading off to Europe and then going back into the studio, two friends and I hopped in a car and drove 10 hours to Atlanta to witness what I’ve been told is one of the best live bands around. Finally, after many hours in the car and a few stops along the way (including a stop off in Macon, GA, to purchase paraphernalia from their hockey team, Macon Whoopee), we arrived at our hotel across the street from the Tabernacle, a decent-sized church-turned-club, formerly the House of Blues. And we were just in time to see Ben Folds himself stroll out of our hotel! What could be better? Ahh… the show.
Never has there been a more suitable band to open up a Ben Folds Five show than Snuzz, who features Chuck Folds, Ben Folds’ brother, on bass, and Eddie Walker, of recent fame from a track on the new Ben Folds Five album Naked Baby Photos, on drums. But aside from staring in awe at the startling resemblance between Ben and Chuck and watching Eddie actually sing along to his drum beat, Snuzz was musically quite impressive. A light and often guitarless version of indie rock, Snuzz took the audience through 40 minutes of songs about things like lemonade and summertime, with occasional comments to the audience from the guitarist/vocalist who never actually introduced himself but was later introduced to me as Snuzz. (Apparently that’s where the band’s name comes from). The band didn’t overstay their welcome, and eventually thanked the audience for their time and left the stage.
I’ve been listening to Ben Folds Five for quite some time, but have never been fortunate enough to see them live until this point. I had built their show up in my head to be some form of monumental event, and if it was anything less than that, I was going to be quite disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed. The trio took to the stage, gave a small wave to the audience, and jumped straight into “Philosophy,” a track off their first album. From there, the band played an unbelievable set, including their addition to the Godzilla soundtrack, “Air,” “Emaline,” a song originally written by Ben Folds’ old band Majosha, and “Evaporated,” a beautiful song they rarely perform live. The band was incredibly tight throughout the hour and 40 minute set which was split 50/50 between their rock songs and their slower and more emotional ones, as they never missed a beat while changing the structures of the many of the songs seemingly at will.
As their closing song, “Song For The Dumped,” came to an end, bassist Robert Sledge started whipping out some heavy metal bass licks to start off what’s come to be known as “The Big Rock-N-Roll Ending:” heavy metal, a bit of screaming, lots of running, and culminating in Ben Folds climbing the speakers and tossing two stools onto the piano. The band kindly said goodnight and left the stage, only to come back a few minutes later for a two-song encore, “Boxing” and “Uncle Walter.” Then the lights went on and we filed out of the Tabernacle, as my friends and I all agreed that seeing Ben Folds Five live was worth the 10-hour drive.