The five key tracks for piano man Ben Folds, ahead of sold-out Kessler Theater show

Ben Folds, wearing a jacket and a T-shirt, sits at a piano

Ben Folds
Photo: Alysse Gafkjen

A decade has passed since Ben Folds Five called it quits for the second time.

The band, which exploded into the musical mainstream on the strength of its 1997 sophomore LP, Whatever and Ever Amen and its inescapable hit, “Brick,” first went its separate way in 2000, not long after 1999’s superb album The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. BFF reunited in 2011, dropped a fourth studio LP, The Sound of the Life of the Mind in 2013, and split for good that year.

In the interregnum between the first and second dissolution, the now 56-year-old namesake of the North Carolina-formed alt-rock trio has kept plenty busy, and, as a solo act, is arguably one of the hardest working musicians out there. A prolific collaborator and relentless touring act, Folds is gearing up to release his fourth solo album — and first truly solo effort in 15 years — What Matters Most on June 2.

KXT is bringing Folds to town for an intimate gig at Oak Cliff’s Kessler Theater Wednesday as a part of the run-up to that release, but tickets for the 500-cap space sold out nearly as soon as they went on sale earlier this year. (If you missed out, fret not: Folds will be back through North Texas in October, performing a two-night stand with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the Meyerson — tickets for those dates will go on sale this summer.)

Here are five key Folds solo tracks — alone or with collaborators — to get you ready for the May Folds gig, or give you some very good reasons why you should circle your calendars for his October return.

“Exhausting Lover”

This track, a lead single from Most, shows the passage of years hasn’t dulled Folds’s wit in the slightest. Lover gets lifts from funky electric piano mashed against falsetto vocals and a blizzard of bitingly funny one-liners.

“You Don’t Know Me”

Folds has proven a deft and willing partner to a full spectrum of musical artists throughout the course of his solo career, and for this track, found first on 2008’s Way to Normal, and later the 2011 compilation album The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective, Folds enlisted another, equally dazzling musician, Regina Spektor.


Folds followed his astonishing 2001 solo debut, Rockin’ the Suburbs, with an equally staggering 2005 follow-up, Songs for Silverman. This lead single, with its vivid strings underpinning the piano medley, might be the closest Folds ever came to evoking the prime 1970s output of Elton John, a formative influence.

“Give Judy My Notice”

In between 2001’s Suburbs and 2005’s Silverman, Folds released a trio of EPs (Speed Graphic, Sunny 16 and Super D) which found him covering everything from The Cure, The Darkness and The Divine Comedy to offering up precisely sculpted pop-rock gems like this tune, a song he eventually re-recorded (with way more pedal steel) for Silverman.

“Not the Same”

Singling out just one stand-out cut from Ben Folds’ masterful 2001 solo debut is an exercise in futility. So, rather than elevate one song above the rest, consider this majestic slow-burn, which often serves as a powerful live highlight, when Folds turns the audience into a tripartite choir.

Ben Folds at Kessler Theater, Dallas. 8 p.m. Wednesday. Sold out.

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.