Last night I went to Ravinia to see Ben Folds. I believe that it was technically a double bill with Ben and Rufus Wainwright because there was an opening act before them, Ben Lee.
My girlfriend and I gathered up some picnic-type goods and headed to the venue. When we arrived, we ran into some of her friends who had lawn seats and we sat down and ate with them while listening to Ben Lee. He did a fun little set of some upbeat pop songs and cracked a few jokes about what a huge honor it was to be a contributor to the soundtrack for "Deuce Bigelow European Gigolo." I enjoyed him and I'll probably even try to track down some of his stuff on the Internet.
There was a brief break before Rufus Wainwright came on and my girlfriend and I made our way to our seats in the pavilion. I am not familiar with Rufus at all. I've heard one of his songs and felt pretty so-so about it. I was told by many people beforehand that he is "awesome" and "SO good". I was interested to see this guy that everyone was raving about. He came on and started playing and I was immediately bored. B-O-R-E-D bored. All of his songs sounded exactly the same as he whined over some slow moving guitar chords. Sure, it was a soulful whine, but it still sucked. By the third song, the only thing that was keeping me entertained was making fun of the contrast between his speaking voice (that of a flamingly gay man) and his heavy, whiny singing voice. Of course, the Rufus fans around me were ready to strike me dead on the spot. They did no such thing. His set finally ended with him announcing that his last song has become a bit of a "protest song" and the thought that immediately entered my head was, "Yeah, I'm protesting. Because you're still on stage."
Another break while they changed the equipment for Ben Folds. During this time, I tried to wake up from the nap that was Rufus Wainwright. Ben finally came on and opened with the first track from his new album, "Bastard." I knew that this show would probably be heavy on songs from "Songs for Silverman" but I didn't mind as I like the album quite a bit. He sprinkled in a few of his older songs ("One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces", "Philosophy", "Zak and Sara", "Not the Same", "Still Fighting It", "Brick"). During "Philosophy" he actually broke some strings in his piano because he was pounding so hard. He opened the piano, pulled out the strings and beat them against his chest like Tarzan. He did very little talking and just played song after song after song. He never really gave us a "break." I thought he was about to slow it down for a bit when he started playing "Gracie" but after the standard opening, he kicked it into high-gear and turned it into a full-fledged rock n' roll song. He closed up with "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces" and left the crowd feeling energized and satisfied. I enjoyed it exactly as much as I expected to - which is to say a lot.