Ben Folds – O2 Apollo, Manchester

By Andy

The O2 Apollo isn’t the greatest venue in Manchester but it?s the popular choice for any artist that needs somewhere that holds more than 1,500 but less than 15,000. For that reason it’s not a sell out tonight but there’s a good number of people in nonetheless.

The sole support tonight comes in the guise of KATIE MILLER-HEIDKE [5/5]. For those unaware, this Australian falls somewhere in between pop and folk with an opera undertone based on her classical background. The opera aside, her general delivery sounds similar to Lucy Wainwright-Roche, with more than a hint of humour attached. Throughout the set only an acoustic guitar accompanies Katie and this stripped-down approach really accentuates her outstanding vocal ability. It’s clear she’s not afraid to hit some high notes and the impact is impressive. This is never more evident than the bizarre but brilliant cover of Eminem’s ‘The Real Slim Shady’ where she substitutes the bass line with her voice, really using it as an instrument. Her rap abilities aren’t bad either. As her short set comes to a close and she plugs her CD, her impact on the audience is best measured by the massive queue that later ensues at her little merch table.

BEN FOLDS [5/5]shortly follows and his latest album ‘Lonely Avenue’ dominates the beginning of the set, alongside an excellent anecdote of why he covers ‘Sleazy’ by Ke$ha; brilliantly executed and with the slice of humour you come to expect from him. ‘Saskia Hamilton’ comes shortly after and is a highlight among the ‘Lonely Avenue’ tracks. This mini-set is then brought to a climax with the short re-appearance from Katie Miller-Heidke who joins Ben for a couple of songs, including ‘You Don’t Know Me’.

This acts as a nice surprise but it’s what follows that people will remember. From this point Ben just appears to relax even more than before and really enjoy himself on stage. This rubs off on everyone else in the theatre, including his extensive backing band who are exceptional throughout.

An excellent mix of humour and well-known songs follow and the outstanding back catalogue soon becomes apparent, with the latter evidenced best by ‘Kate’, ‘Brick’ and ‘Lullaby’ following in quick succession. The humour is never too far away and is at its best on ‘Rock This Bitch’ ,with the audience participation echoing this. Finally, just when you think the end must be near, the trio of ‘Rockin’ The Suburbs’, ‘Bitch Went Nuts’ and ‘Philosophy’ end an incredible non-stop two hour set that will not easily be forgotten.