Ben Folds has been a musical and cultural influence for well over a generation. Originally coming into prominence as the frontman of pop trio Ben Folds Five in the mid 1990’s, the singer-songwriter from North Carolina has since evolved into an author, actor, composer, producer, and arts activist/advocate, collaborating with symphony orchestras, television networks, movie studios, theatre production companies, and multiple charitable organizations.
Ben’s latest effort and first studio album in eight years, entitled What Matters Most,was released in June 2023 to critical acclaim and rabid fan reviews. Perhaps his most complex, sophisticated, and collaborative record to date, it serves as a reflection of the artist’s diverse career and life experiences over the past 25 years, as well as a statement on the post-pandemic chaotic, confusing, and often idiotic world of today.
The What Matters Most tour kicked off in the northeastern US in mid-June, meandered across the country, and finally reached the west coast with a stop at the historic Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles’ Koreatown area. Ben’s 90-minute set featured songs from the new album plus old favorites (which were met with intense enthusiasm from the crowd of long-time fans, who danced in their seats and sang along to every word).
What makes a Ben Folds show most enjoyable are the stories the artist throws in as an introduction to the songs. Most of his lyrics are humorous spins on common everyday experiences which, although sometimes totally fictional, are immediately and completely relatable to. That connection between the artist, his songs, and his audience is what has kept his fans loyal and devoted for almost three decades. The song “Not The Same” performed live is the greatest example of this. Experiencing that live cannot be put into words… you need to go see a Ben Folds concert and find out for yourself.
Words and photos by Justin Higuchi
Setlist: Exhausting Lover, Winslow Gardens, Clouds with Ellipses, Losing Lisa, Fragile, Kristine from the Seventh Grade, The Ascent of Stan, Still Fighting It, Back to Anonymous, What Matters Most, Landed, You Don’t Know Me, Effington, Not The Same, Moments, Eddie Walker, Annie Waits, Still, Zak and Sara.