Gary Flockhart: Ben has friends in high places

Ben Folds
Ben Folds
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IT’S true that hit singles can no longer be used to measure success – but still, it’s head-scratchingly difficult to understand why Ben Folds doesn’t sell as many records as [insert name of inspid balladeer here].

It would be tempting to say the lack of an industry gong probably doesn’t grate on this talented troubadour either, but it just might.

At a recent gig at Chicago’s Riviera Theater, Folds told the crowd, “I’ve never won an award”.

That’s just as puzzling as the shortage of hits, especially considering how radio-friendly many of his songs are.

Folds, who came to prominence in the mid-90s as frontman of piano-rock trio Ben Folds Five, is often compared to Elton John and Billy Joel – but interestingly, both men consider the composer of classics like Brick and Army to be the more talented. “They told me that,” he said in a recent interview. “I don’t think it’s true, but I know why they say that. I’m also the one that hasn’t sold as many records, so they’re very fatherly and nice to me.”

No matter the lack of gold discs, when Folds pitches up in Edinburgh on Tuesday he’ll be playing to an adoring crowd at one of the city’s most prestigious venues – the 2200-capacity Usher Hall.

It’s a rare visit to the Capital from the 49-year-old, who arrives in support of latest album So There, with a special show alongside NYC chamber ensemble yMusic.

The album is a collaborative effort that’s essentially two different albums in one – eight chamber-rock songs constructed with yMusic, and then the three-movement Concerto For Piano And Orchestra recorded with the Nashville Symphony.

As such, those heading along should not expect an evening of fan favourites – though at a recent gig he threw in six songs from his days in Ben Folds Five, plus You Don’t Know Me, with yMusic’s Alex Sopp singing Regina Spektor’s verses.