Review and Photos by Samantha Witt
Dynamic pianist Ben Folds and enchanting duo Tall Heights delivered an unforgettable night at the iconic Paramount Theatre in Seattle on August 20th. The anticipation in the air grew palpable as the lights dimmed and the grand piano took center stage. This was a night where both acts did not disappoint.
Indie-folk band Tall Heights kicked off the evening with powerful harmonies and captivating melodies that set the perfect tone for the night. Their folk-inspired sound, infused with modern twists, created an atmosphere that felt both nostalgic and fresh. The duo hails from Boston and consists of guitarist Tim Harrington and cellist Paul Wright, but was joined by Paul Dumas on drums for a portion of their set. Fans sang along to a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Spirit Cold,” and the duo unplugged completely for their final song, “To Be Young,” which reverberated throughout the auditorium, highlighting their harmonic abilities.
Following Tall Heights' captivating performance, Ben Folds took the stage to thunderous applause. With a drink in his hand and a smile on his face, he waved to the crowd before heading over to take his seat behind the keys. With an uncanny ability to seamlessly blend different genres and his mastery of the keys, he took the audience on a rollercoaster of emotions. Folds demonstrated his incredible musical range, from upbeat and infectious tunes that had the entire theatre swaying to heartfelt ballads that left not a dry eye in the house.
Fans were in for a treat that evening as Folds took the stage with a full band consisting of Harrington, Wright, and Dumas from Tall Heights, Ross Garren on harmonica and keyboards, and Derek Wong on bass for his final show with the tour. Folds and his ensemble opened the set with “Exhausting Lover” and “Winslow Gardens,” setting the tone for an evening of incredible music with Folds’ eclectic storytelling mixed in.
What truly set this concert apart was Folds' connection with the audience. He delivered engaging banter and stories between songs, creating an intimate atmosphere, which made the massive theatre feel like an evening out between friends. One particular story about a friend from seventh grade named “Kris with a K” had the audience laughing wildly out loud before the start of “Kristine from the Seventh Grade."
The band played their title track from the new album, What Matters Most, and Folds choked up fans as he talked a little before the song about cleaning out an old storage unit when the worst text message of his life came in about his dear friend passing away and subsequently writing this tune about what matters most.
The encore songs were a fitting end to an exceptional night, leaving everyone yearning for just one more. Fans screamed out requests as the final notes echoed through the theatre and Fold’s began “Rock This Bitch” with a little improv about a rowdy fan. He sang, “We’re gonna rock this bitch, Seattle. This fan’s been yelling all Goddamn night, but there’s a time and a place for everything,” which had fans howling with laughter and applause.
Folds and his band closed the night out with “Zack and Sara” with a standing ovation that was a testament to Ben Folds' remarkable talent and the emotional journey he had taken the audience on. In retrospect, the concert was more than just a musical performance; it was a captivating and theatrical experience that showcased the power of music to unite and move people.