When we don’t even bother with the support band, when someone in the main group, about halfway through the set refers to the singer of Metallica as “James Hatfield” and makes the devil horns sign in an ironic way to general tittering from the crowd it is clear that RTM is not on safe ground.
This is one of the rare occasions that we come blinking into the light and into the mainstream. However, us being here isn’t quite as odd as it first appears. In the mid 90s a band emerged that was genuinely different from the grungey norm and played piano rock n roll with quirky lyrics. Their first two albums were actually very good indeed. Splitting up after album number three in 2000, they released a comeback album earlier in the year and guess what? That’s pretty good too.
That band is Ben Folds Five, the name seemingly a student-type joke as there are only three members of the band, led by the eponymous star banging away on his piano like a nerd version of Little Richard and they have a drawn a near sell-out crowd at the Academy.
Both crowd and band are soon reliving the past as “Jackson Cannery” kicks off with some fine vocal interplay between the band members, while “Erase Me” from the comeback album “The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind” features more harmony vocals than your average Queen song.
For a band that uses the piano as its driving force there is an amazing amount of difference in the songs – “Uncle Walter” evokes the spirit of 1950s rock n roll for example, while the seemingly spontaneous “Rock This Bitch” with its bluesy references to Birmingham comes from a different place all together.
The encores of the crowd pleasing “One Angry Dwarf And Two Hundred Solemn Faces” and “Song For The Dumped” take things up a notch and Folds’ geeky charm carries the whole thing along in a jaunty way.
There are a couple of problems with the gig, though. First it is very, very long – clocking in at two hours 15 minutes – and it just isn’t, well, for want of a better word, exciting. There is nothing visceral about what goes on here. In fact, for part of the evening it feels more like a recital than a gig and doesn’t quite hold the attention. It is, after all, essentially three fellas just standing there playing some piano based songs.
We will forgive them appalling lack of knowledge when it comes to Metallica and we will forgive the rather plodding nature of some of what happened. File under glad we’ve seen them but probably won’t bother again.