Ben Folds with yMusic @ Sydney Opera House Review

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Ben Folds Ben Folds

It says a lot about yMusic – the baroque, neo-classical sextet with who Ben Folds, our man of the hour, has obsessed over, recorded an album with and then brought out on tour with him – that they emerge first to perform an overture of sorts.

While it's unquestionably the clout and reputation of our bespectacled hero that has, to put it bluntly, put arses in seats (21 August), it's yMusic that will keep them there for the ensuing two hours and change. We're reminded time and time again throughout the show of who these people are, what they do and why we should care, and it's all entirely reasonable, given the prodigious talent on offer.

Not only are their individual abilities uniformly impressive, the way they are able to tessellate and blend into one another through each composition transforms each song into something that's uniquely theirs. It's perhaps the perfect middle-ground between the free-wheeling fun of a solo set from Folds and the bombast of one of his patented symphony orchestra shows.

Folds – freshly bearded and another album deep since his previous visit – is in high spirits on his second and final night in the concert hall on this tour. “Some nights, I don't know if I'm going to talk or not,” he quips early on. “I think I'm going to talk tonight.” Indeed, he does.

We're regaled with tales of Mornings with Kerri-Anne and Kesha rescuing a pool-bound phone among other anecdotes. But it never serves as a hindrance or distraction from the performance itself. Rather, it integrates itself into the flow of the setlist that runs otherwise uninterrupted save for an obligatory 'Rock This Bitch' (Google it if you're not au fait) a half-hour into the show.

On the note of setlists: no hits tonight, save for a triumphant 'Army' and Triple J favourite 'You Don't Know Me' with flautist Alex Sopp dutifully subbing in for Regina Spektor. Truth be told, they're not really needed: every part of this performance manages to speak for itself far more than a shoehorned favourite ever could.

Besides, when you're treated to deep cuts like 'Boxing' from 1995's eponymous 'Ben Folds Five' album or 'Whatever' and 'Ever Amen's 'Evaporated', it's hard to be a disgruntled fan. From start to finish, tonight is a remarkable evening with a piano-pop veteran who has scored a new lease on life.


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