G#’s Musical Radar: Ben Folds, Kadhja Bonet play sold-out show at The Blue Note

Both artists performed stripped-down sets Tuesday night.

By Grant Sharples | Feb. 24, 2017

Tags: Concerts Music The Blue Note

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Sometimes I think it’s fun to walk into a concert not quite knowing what to expect. I went to see Ben Folds and Kadhja Bonet on Tuesday night with that mindframe. I knew the Ben Folds songs that everyone knows, like “The Luckiest,” but nothing more than that. I hadn’t listened to Kadhja Bonet before the show either, so I was interested to see what she would bring to the table as well.

The show itself was billed by The Blue Note as “Ben Folds And A Piano,” so I knew this show would have minimal instrumentation. However, I wasn’t expecting Bonet, Folds’ opening act, to perform a stripped-down set, too. All Bonet used was her electric guitar, a handful of effects pedals and her voice.

Bonet did a wonderful job setting the tone for the rest of the show. Her soothing voice was reminiscent of singer/songwriter Norah Jones. Her dry sense of humor was also entertaining. When Bonet walked out on stage, she greeted the crowd with “Hey, I’m Ben Folds.”

Her debut album, The Visitor, has a lot more going on than just a guitar and vocals, so she made the right choice by sticking to a small instrumentation for this show. Bonet gave the perfect opening set for a tour focused on pared-down versions of songs.

Folds also performed a captivating set. It was impressive how he had the crowd in the palm of his hand, holding our attention with only his vocals and a piano. As I previously mentioned, I don’t know a lot of Folds’ music, but that lack of preliminary knowledge actually heightened the overall experience. It was fascinating to look from the outside at a fan base that was so passionate, singing every lyric of even the lesser-known songs.

I was also impressed by the length of Folds’ set. He performed two hours’ worth of music, all the while keeping the crowd engaged. Folds mentioned during his set that he was going to keep talking to a minimum, just because he felt like it, and Columbia would hear more songs than most of the shows he’s already played on this tour. After hearing nearly 30 songs, the audience was unmistakably satisfied.

The overall flow of the concert was a highlight as well. Folds divided his set into sections. At first, he mainly played his slower tracks such as “Brick” and “The Luckiest,” and later performed upbeat and energetic songs like “Rockin’ the Suburbs” and “Army.”

Both Bonet and Folds gave wonderful performances. Considering the fact that I knew roughly four or five songs walking into the show, both artists had my attention the entire time. It’s refreshing to attend a concert simply for the music, rather than the light show or stage production. It’s a nice change of pace to listen to a simplified set, and Bonet and Folds both did a remarkable job of giving the audience exactly that.

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