Ben Folds/Guster/Rufus Wainwright
The Lawn at WRSP
Saturday, June 26
On a clear, warm night, the new Lawn at White River State Park proved its worth. Acoustics were excellent (with none of the headaches of Verizon) and the city’s skyline provided a beautiful counterpart to the stage.
Opener Rufus Wainwright gave the introspective set that his fans adore him for, and while I’m told that he spoke more than usual, he didn’t speak much. He did give faithful renditions of his enigmatic songs, and even the unconverted enjoyed his “Hallelujah” from the Shrek soundtrack.
Headliner Ben Folds roused the crowd from its trance with “There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You.” Throughout his performance, Folds playfully responded to the whims of the audience. When he explained that an airline had lost his luggage, the clothes started flying on stage — and didn’t stop for the rest of his 45-minute set.
Ben Folds energetically interwove his lighthearted songs and his more serious material. He has the ability to make his music sound fresh no matter how many times he’s performed it, as he showed when he did his own beatboxing for “Rockin’ the Suburbs.” Folds was able to loosen Wainwright up for a duet on George Michael’s “Careless Whispers.” Though Ben Folds was tied to his Baldwin, he rocked himself around his stool and even jumped on top of his piano for his finale, a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Not the Same.”
Guster, puzzlingly placed last in the lineup, gave a lackluster performance. The band’s organic sound (and especially Brian Rosenworcel’s impressive hand-drumming) should lend itself to a show as lively as Folds’, but there was little spontaneity. Even frontman Ryan Miller commented on the stark contrast here. The one bright spot was when a local violinist, identified only as “Emily,” gave the group some pizzazz for “Two at a Time.”