I’m here right on doors open, after having thought doors were half an hour prior and I’d walk in with ease. In fact, the line travels right down Costin Street and I’m left hobbling up the pathway in the rain with all my fellow keen patrons. Tonight is all about Ben Folds as he brings his ambitiously conceived Paper Airplane tour to Brisbane. The Paper Airplane format will see tonight’s set broken into two, the first being a standard setlist compiled by Folds, the second will see Ben return to the stage willing to play any request that lands at his feet after audience members are encouraged to write their favourite track on a piece of paper, fold it into a paper airplane and throw it to the stage.
As the crowd slowly creeps through the doors, England’s Lucy Rose takes the stage. Sporting only an acoustic guitar she rolls right into her first song in an indie-folk set. Now honestly, I hadn’t heard of Lucy Rose before today. But I had a listen on the way up and quickly became intrigued and excited to see her. This woman can really belt it out and she sounds even better live than on her recordings.. She plays through a short half hour set claiming massive applause between songs from the appreciative crowd. And with two songs left, someone in the crowd screams out offering her a ‘shoey’. Lucy responds innocently with “what’s a shoey?”. She continues to banter with the crowd trying to work out what it is, leaving it with “I don’t understand your language.” What a legend!
About 15 secs into her last track, Rose stops abruptly yelling “Shit! My names Lucy Rose!” Having just realised after all this chit chat she hadn’t actually introduced herself. She’s funny, she’s proper lovely and she’s super talented. If it wasn’t for who is up next, I’d happily walk away satisfied with a night out. Go look her up.
The stage is completely bare but for a beautiful Steinway & Sons piano positioned to the left with just enough light to keep all eyes on it. With no warning, Ben walks onto the stage, sits down, gives a loving gesture to the crowd, turns to face the keys and begins playing ‘Phone in a Pool’ from his 2015 release ‘So There’. He leaves no room for small talk as he rolls straight into ‘Annie Waits’ only to stop midway to have a quick discussion with the photographers, indulging them and giving a quick 30 second demonstration of amazing poses – see the results in the gallery below.
Onward we go, the rest of the set sees a couple of Ben Folds Five tracks thrown into the mix, plus a lot of engaging storytelling before finishing with something incredible. As Ben hits the final note of ‘Steven’s Last Night in Town’ an assistant appears next to him with a drum tom and two sticks. Ben jumps up and starts bashing the tom with rhythm as the assistant leads him over to a rug and a drum chair on the other side of the stage. As Folds continues to play, a team of people quickly start building a drum kit around him. By the end we have Ben Folds sitting at a complete kit playing an impressive jazz inspired solo. Who saw THAT coming?
Over the PA the crowd are instructed to wait for a countdown. We get our warning “10….9….8… etc. LAUNCH!” On cue, paper airplanes, hundreds of them hurtle toward the front! The stage is littered with them. They continue to jet through the air from all directions while Ben makes his way out and stands politely at the piano watching. He catches one mid-air, walks to his chair and gently places the request onto the top of the piano, and the first notes of ‘Army’ hit the keys and the crowd erupt.
The second set is much like the first, Ben tells stories both hilarious and beautiful. The songs are a mix of his entire career and include a few Ben Folds Five numbers. It is all quite spectacular. But being a proper gentlemen, he doesn’t leave without an encore, hitting the keys one more time playing the traditional jewish tune ‘Hava Nagila’ and leaving us with one last Ben Folds Five song ‘One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces’.
When you put the whole fun part of the night with the airplanes aside, you are left with no doubt in sight that Folds is a genius. Every single song thrown on that stage is played perfectly. You could have thrown any one of his tracks from his massive discography up there and all evidence points to him completely nailing it He doesn’t even think twice about what he plays, he just sits down and smashes out a song like he had rehearsed it a few hours prior. He’s brilliant.
Paper Airplane Request Setlist
Don’t change your plans
Fred Jones part 2
Photos By Dan Maynard