Apr 22, 2010

Ben Folds (and a piano) and Kate Miller-Heidke at the Vic on 4/19/10

Kate Miller-Heidke is a Brisbane born classically trained opera singer turned acoustic (a la Regina Spektor/Tori Amos/Imogen Heap) singer-songwriter. She began songwriting at age 14. Her plans to sing with Opera Australia were trashed after her song "Space They Cannot Touch" became a hit on Australia's Youth Network. Another song "The Last Day on Earth" reached #3 in Australia and her CD "Curiouser" reached #1 on itunes for 3 weeks. She performs now with her husband who is her guitarist and back up vocalist, Keir Nuttral. They both play off each other well. One of her more amusing songs played is called "Are You F*cking Kidding Me?" AKA to her fans as the "Facebook Song" where she sings about being asked to be "friends" on FB after a break up and well, her response is "Fuck No" that is not going to happen. Throughout her performance there was liberal use of the "F Word" which made her performance extremely compatible with the Ben Folds portion of the show. For those of you who know his lyrics - you understand. I will comment more on this later. As for Kate, I found her music and personality very engaging and also unexpected at moments. You can view on the attached video how she spontaneously launches into a mini-operatic moment during most of her songs. Somehow she pulls it off successfully and this may be because A. she is actually on pitch and B. It is fabulously different. For more visit www.katemh.com. The video posted here is "Politics in Space". Enjoy the ride.

Ben Folds performed for three nights at the Vic and my friend Wendy and I went to the show on night one. Per other blogs and tweets I caught online, there is a bit of "Who did CHICAGO have to sleep with to get Ben for THREE NIGHTS?!" jealousy and outrage out there. So, I feel a bit sheepish in admitting that the song I knew best was "Rockin the Suburbs" because my kids have the movie "Over the Hedge" and I have heard it over and over (and over). So really, I was kind of a "Ben Virgin" at the show and likely the only one in attendance with such limited and prudish exposure. Turns out he was experienced and gentle. Enough about that. I now know that he is a talented multi instrumentalist (piano, drums, bass) singer-songwriter. His lyrics are filled with self-deprecating humor, tongue-in-cheek phrases, and mockery of the world, its stupidity, and the people that inhabit it. His songs ranged from melancholy to catchy pop.

I was impressed with how everyone (except me) knew ALL of the lyrics to ALL of his songs. It was in fact a giant sing-along. At one point there was a song turned sing-along that involved the audience echoing back the lyric (loosely termed) "Fuck". At first I did not participate in the sing-along but it was going on for quite sometime so I decided to give it a go and be one with the fans. I could not help but think of how liberating it was to say the F Word with hundreds of people who were yelling it at the tippy top of their lungs. I also was convinced that the next time I would yell it (I mean sing it) I would be the ONLY ONE dropping the F Bomb OUT LOUD and would look like a raving lunatic cursing at the show all alone. This did not happen as I continued to be one with the mob of F Bomb sing-alongers. This is mob mentality at its best really. Ben had a great night with the exception of being very unhappy with the Steinway he was using. It was, he said, not in tune and he would "need to hurt himself" while playing it to make it sound right. He did beat the piano to a bloody pulp on several occasions. I just thought he was passionate. During one of my favorite songs of the night, "The Bitch Went Nuts" (gotta love it) Ben also added a bit of percussion using the mic and a shaker. Also worth mentioning while speaking of percussion... a drum, symbol, sticks etc were slowly brought on stage by one of his roadies and before you knew it, Ben was at the drums doing a solo (I guess for the heck of it)!

I do want to mention that I find it fascinating how I often find myself at a packed concert with the "number 1 fan" standing right in front of me. This women, very nice for sure, knew every word to every song, would yell out the name of a song she wanted to hear and Ben would accommodate the request, etc. Good to have someone like her nearby for the name of a song just played or a lyric you could not understand. It is like having a translator for the musically impaired (or newbie fan of performer in my case). In reading about Ben's training, it was interesting to learn that he was a student at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami and he dropped out with only one credit left. He then moved to NJ to work in an acting troupe, eventually in 1994 formed Ben Folds Five and went solo in 2001.

Have any of you heard about Ben becoming a YouTube phenom this past March? He did a video entitled "Ode to Merton" during which he improvised several songs about people he saw networking on "chatroulette". Prior to Ben doing this video, a guy named Merton, also a YouTube phenom, appeared to be impersonating Ben Folds doing "chatroulette". You must YouTube search for these videos which appear side by side. You can decide whether Merton or Folds is more humorous. It is hilarious. One of my favorite songs of the night (attached here) was "You Don't Know Me" which he sang with Kate Miller (on the "album" he sings it with Regina Spektor). Kate did a great job and added her "operatic flourish" once again to claim it as her own. Again, have to say, I give the show a 5 out of 5 guitar rating all around!

"The Bitch Went Nuts" video from the show!

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