Folds picks the first set, the second set is on the fly

Get your requests and paper airplanes ready for Ben Folds’ show at Robinson Center Performance Hall in Little Rock tonight.
Get your requests and paper airplanes ready for Ben Folds’ show at Robinson Center Performance Hall in Little Rock tonight.

Sharpen your paper folding skills before tonight's Ben Folds concert. You'll need them if you want to hear your request performed by the piano-playing singer-songwriter at Little Rock's Robinson Center Performance Hall.

That's because Folds will be taking audience requests via -- get this -- paper airplane. Jot down your request -- perhaps "Brick," his emotional hit with the Ben Folds Five, the cheeky "Rockin' the Suburbs," or maybe one of his offbeat covers -- craft it into a flight-worthy plane and fling it stageward.

Ben Folds Paper Airplane Request Tour

8 p.m. today, Robinson Center Performance Hall, 426 W. Markham St., Little Rock

Admission: $25-$129

(501) 244-8800


"I had that as an idea one day on tour a few years ago," the 50-year-old Folds says from his home in Santa Monica, Calif. "Taking requests is a tricky business because it often involves a lot of people yelling. So I thought, let's just have them launch paper airplanes."

Such quirkiness should come as no surprise to Folds' followers. Since his days in the Ben Folds Five, which was actually a trio, the Chapel Hill, N.C., native has carved out a career of smart pop mixed with smart aleck wit.

Folds released four albums with the Five between 1995 and 2012. He has put out three solo albums and has collaborated with author Nick Hornby, Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, singer Sara Bareilles, actor William Shatner and others. In 2005, his performance with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra was released as Live in Perth. He was also named as the first ever artistic adviser to the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center and has performed with symphonies all over the world.

In 2009, he began a five-season stint as a judge on the NBC a cappella singing competition The Sing-Off. That same year he produced Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella!

He has a history with Arkansas, as well. Not only has he gigged here, but his two Baldwin pianos were made in Trumann.

"I came down there to see them being built," he says. "I visited the factory and they showed me how they were making them. Then I came down again and to pose for some photos. It was cool."

Tonight's show, he says, will be divided into two parts. The first will be him at the piano playing a pretty straightforward set. After an intermission, the requests will fly (don't worry about taking your own, paper will be supplied at the show).

This approach allows Folds to get creative early in the evening because he knows fans will invariably request his more popular songs in the second half.

"I don't feel the need to include a wide, 'best-of' in the first set," he says. "It gives me a short, concise set in the beginning to be maybe a little more artistically focused. It's a good forum. It means I get to pretty much cover everything."

And that second part will include Folds "stumbling around onstage picking up airplanes and playing whatever it is that is written on the airplane."

He reserves the right, though, to edit requests.

"People pay for a show, of course, and if [a request] makes for a worse show I won't play it," he says. "I'm not going to play the same song twice, that's the obvious one. And I'm not going to do three ballads in a row and send everyone home on a bummer."

Style on 08/29/2017

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