Ben Folds and His Band

In a guitar-centric rock universe, Ben Folds maintains his place as Iconic Nerd Rock God in the grand tradition of those other piano men, Elton John and Billy Joel. Though he hasn't gotten as much radio play as his forebears, Folds does have the helpful benefit of a cult following. Back when he first hit the music scene in the mid-'90s with his bandmates in Ben Folds Five, the trio marketed themselves as "The piano band that rocks. By the way, they're nerds," a motto that caught on in a big way. Though Folds presents his appeal as lying somewhere near that of a Trekkie convention, the fact remains that he's a hell of a musician in the most classic sense. A true singer-songwriter, Folds writes smart-ass lyrics (that his fans know every damn word of) that provide a refreshing break from the overproduced, overshot pop music that Folds has railed against in more than one hilarious song. In short, Folds empowers the common listener to ask for -- and receive -- something better. Now touring in support of his second solo album, Songs for Silverman, Folds has not let his fans down: He's still writing earnest lyrics that manage to resonate while they marinate in his simple, catchy melodies. Silverman is another big (if understated) score for the sentimental guy.
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Mary Templeton