Concert Review: Ben Folds at The Ritz Ybor

The interplay with Ben and audience took off in the second half of the set. “Rocking the Suburbs” and “Kate” provided fodder for sing-a-longs. The crowd went bonkers over “Brick.” (If I never again get surrounded by men singing an earnest ballad, it’ll be too soon.)

Folds is a true showman. Banging away on his grand piano pushed to the front of the stage, he thrives on crowd interaction. The highlight of the evening came when Folds conducted the audience as a three-part-harmony choir during “Not the Same.”

Folds closed the set while shaking hands in the front rows and crooning the fake version of “The Frown Song.” The band returned for a two-song encore, finishing with a fan favorite, “Army.”

A wrap of the Friday, April 3 show by B.Treotch; photo by Phil Bardi.

Walking by the Ritz in Ybor city last Friday night, you may have thought some tech convention was going on. Tucked-in shirts, leather belts and fresh haircuts are not your normal rock concert attire, but then again, Ben Folds isn’t your normal rock star. The clever singer/songwriter has straddled the line between thick-glasses nerd and cool piano-popster for more than a decade now.

The 42-year-old, supported by a drummer, bassist and multi-instrumentalist played over two dozen songs that spanned his solo career and his three studio albums with the Ben Folds Five. Drawing heavily from last year’s under-the-radar Way To Normal, Folds opened with “Errant Dog.” The band then worked the crowd with tracks from Songs for Silverman — “Landed” and “Jesusland” — followed by the Whatever and Ever Amen’s anthemic “Battle of Who Could Care Less,” Normal’s “Effington” and Rockin’ the Suburbs’ “Losing Lisa.” Then they brought it down with “Lullabye” from The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner and a new one, “Kylie From Connecticut.”

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