Live Review: Ben Folds delivers crowd-satisfying set during first night of Melbourne Zoo Twilights gigs

When you’ve got a performer such as Ben Folds seated at a glistening piano overlooking a sea of thousands, eagerly tuned in to every word? You know you’re in for a great night.

The first of two shows at the Melbourne Zoo for Twilights series 2018, Friday night with Ben Folds was a night for nostalgia, a relaxed vibe and crowd involvement, with Folds bringing his popular Paper Aeroplane Request tour to the lush outdoor surrounds of the zoo for the first time. Split into two sets; the first curated by the man himself, the second by the fans, the show took a deep dive into a back catalogue that has seen some epic hits emerge through the 90’s and early 2000’s.

Ben Folds (Photo: Anthony Smith)

Along with the likes of “Uncle Walter”, “Still Fighting It” and “Not a Fan”, the crowd was also treated to some classic Ben Folds humour and that endearing charm; stories were shared, anecdotes floated out over the crowd. Trying to keep things as PG as possible for the all ages, family audience, there were some slips into the cussing glory many fans would associate with some of Ben Folds’ material but it was met with laughs, hollers and cheers.

The requests set was filled with some heartbreakers, more than I’d been expecting. From “Philosophy” to “Evaporated” and “Brick”, there was enough heavy emotional material here to sink a ship. The melodic way in which Folds has crafted this extensive repertoire has always made him a favourite with crowds all over but I found that revisiting some of these songs some 10-15 years later, there’s something comforting about them. The sad tunes land harder than they did before, whether that be because I (and many seeing his shows now, no doubt) am now older and have more life experience behind me, while the more playful and balls-to-the-wall piano bangers are just a whole lot of fun.

The connection Ben Folds has maintained with Australian fans over the years has always been a strong one; of course, for a period of time there we claimed him as an honorary South Australian. But seeing him come back with a tour such as this one only reinforces the fact that the love he has for this part of the world is as strong as ever.

BEN FOLDS SET LIST

Phone in a Pool
Annie Waits
Uncle Walter
Bastard
Still Fighting It
So There
Landed
Not a Fan
You Don’t Know Me
Steven’s Last Night in Town

BY REQUEST SET

Not the Same
Rock This Bitch (Rock This Bitch at The Melbourne Zoo)
Zak and Sara
Philosophy
Evaporated
Brick
Do It Anyway
Gracie
Army
Rockin’ The Suburbs

Photo: Anthony Smith

The reviewer attended this show on February 16th.