Entertainment

Ben Folds: Still doing the best imitation of himself

Ben Folds played his piano so hard to open the Charlotte Symphony's Pops season on Saturday night that he broke it.

Folds broke it in the middle of the show, switched the set order to an audience participation song ("Not the Same") while it was being repaired, and banged out several more songs to play a full set.

While he was vamping, as the piano was being taken apart on the stage, he gave part of a talk he's working on about why orchestras embody civilization - they show us how to work together for a common goal. He also encouraged the well-populated audience at Blumenthal's Belk Theater to return to non-Pops shows.

Folds said the lowest octave or so on the piano was done-for after "Zak and Sara," though it might have been weakened during his original composition when he hammered those strings and muted others directly on the sound board, reaching in from the top of the instrument. Folds is morphing, after legitimate and brilliant phases as piano pop master and television's "The Sing-Off" judge, into a composer of note, having written a 25-minute concerto for piano that premiered in March in Nashville.

It had seemed the piano breaking was the show's high point, but that may have been overshadowed by the composition of an original song right there on stage during the encore. Folds wrote for the clarinet and flute first, then the double bass and harp, then the choir and strings. By the end of things, he had two verses and a chorus, with a trumpet player freestyling all the way to the back of the balcony.

Not the same, indeed.

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