Davies Symphony Hall

“Rock this bitch!” Ben Folds had just finished his second song in the set after the intermission, when an audience member screamed out from the balcony, “Already?  We just started!” Ben Folds turned around to face his backing band for the evening, the venerable San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and said, “I should probably explain this.” In Chicago, years ago, at a live show, a fan screamed this out and Ben Folds wrote a song on the spot. Now, “Rock This Bitch” is a Folds tradition. He plunked out a concept, muttering something about jazz to himself, and then gave each section of the orchestra a different assigned part. With about three minutes of preparation, Folds had a melody composed, and assigned parts to sections of the orchestra. The cellos, violas, violins, bassoons, and percussionists all had their own parts to play, over which Folds improvised a jazz melody and lyrics that were part pontifications about rocking this bitch, part lyrics to the Beverly Hillbillies theme song, all backed by a world class orchestra.

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Ben Folds puts on his serious face before having an amazing time.

Ben Folds puts on his serious face before having an amazing time.

There was a moment during “Steven’s Last Night in Town” when Ben Folds, letting the San Francisco Symphony do its thing, turned toward the audience, put his hands on his knees and flashed a huge smile. It was the happiest I’ve ever seen him, and who can blame him?  Here he was, on stage with a world class orchestra, hearing them play the horn breakdown of a humorous song he wrote during a time when he was just another struggling Nashville musician. Now he’s on top of the musical world, playing songs that belong in the Great American Songbook with 100 great musicians and singers.  I’d smile, too. And I did. [read the whole post]

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