The Piano Duo

Tori Amos & Ben Folds Five
Molson Amphitheatre
August 13, 2003
The Lottapianos tour of Tori Amos and Ben Folds rolled into the Molson Amphitheatre on Thursday night. The audience was surprisingly small, filling only half of the seats. The fans who did attend however were vocal and loyal.

Ben Folds opened the evening, walking out onto the simple stage; a piano and a black curtain backdrop. He didn't even bother to sit down but attacked the piano right away. His style throughout was aggressive and he remained standing almost the entire time. His bouncing stance and energy transferred right to the piano where his displayed his skills.

He played some of his well-known tunes along with some new material. He came across as very personable with his stories and introductions to his songs. The audience was treated to a minor key version of "Song For The Dumped", which he changed to a "sad" pop classical style. Words missing from the original version were added back into the end: "you fucking whore" which seemed much more humorous when sung melodiously than angry. Both acts were free with the profanity.

Ben Folds got the audience going, and even managed to have them successfully sing both two-part and later three-part harmony. He demonstrated his skill by covering many of the instruments from the original tracks on the piano and was able to easily change moods and styles through dynamics. He made a switch to the drums without any break from the piano when a roadie brought a drum to him while he walked and played to the rest of the kit.

Tori came out singing acapella, one of her best moments of the night. The crowd enjoyed her physicality and the elements of sensuality that she brought to the performance. She worked the piano as well as up to two keyboards simultaneously while straddling the piano bench. The sound mix for her part of the show was much more typical of rock concerts, whereas it would have benefited from focusing on the piano and her voice. Many of the words, a major part of her attraction to many, were lost if you were not completely familiar with them.

Her only address to the crowd was a very funny bit about crossing the border into Canada. While giving an intense performance she was missing the interaction with the audience. There were no introductions or stories to help create a sense of intimacy. Her songs do serve to do this, but only if the words – the ideas and stories- come across clearly.

A highlight was in the middle portion of the show when a "Roadside Caf╚" sign descended and Tori played alone onstage. She sang "Carbon", among others, a song with a reference to her author friend Neil Gaiman. Here she was at her best, working the piano and communicating with the crowd.

Both of the performers played exceptionally well, pleasing the crowd with some of their hits, but in the end it seemed that Ben Folds shared a bit more and showed what the piano, an under-used, effective instrument, can be.

Writer: Nathaniel Whitfield

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