When Ben Folds announced a summer tour with Rufus Wainwright and
Guster at hisApril Hill Auditorium performance, the recently
renovated theater nearly collapsed from applause and cheers. But
surprisingly, it was the piano-rocker’s mediocre performance at
Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights June 20 that may have
left loyal fans disappointed, while featured artists Wainwright and
Guster shone brightly.

Wainwright opened the triple bill solo, without the
accompaniment of his backup band and singers, playing favorites
“Vibrate” and “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk.” But the absence of
the string instruments and singers was a bonus, as Wainwright’s
melodic voice filled the outdoor theater. Comedic interludes
between songs were another plus to his early performance.

Keeping in line with the spirit of Father’s Day, Wainwright
ended his set with a soulful rendition of “Dinner at Eight,” from
his latest full-length Want One, dedicated to his father,
folk singer Loudon Wainwright III.

Unfortunately, fans that attended Folds’ April performance at
Hill Auditorium may have experienced a bit of deja vu. The
piano-rocker played nearly an identical, albeit shorter, set at
Freedom Hill. Included in both performances were
crowd-participation numbers “Army” and “Not the Same,” which failed
to elicit the same reaction as at Hill Auditorium, in part due to a
mixed audience of fans for each band.

Folds introduced “Gracie” — dedicated to one half of his
four-year-old twins. The endearing song, set to appear on an
upcoming album, went over well with female audience members, who
smiled and laughed at the lyrics. But not until he returned to
classics “Philosophy” and encore “One Angry Dwarf,” did the rest of
the fans begin to react to Folds’ performance.

Although Folds was set as the show’s headliner, his fan turnout
was surprisingly sparse in comparison to the majority of younger
concertgoers present to cheer Guster, who performed last. Guster
pleased their large crowd of fans with a mix of songs from their
Goldfly, Lost and Gone Forever and Keep it
albums, including popular songs “Demons,” “Ramona,”
and “Barrel of a Gun.”

Fans who attended Folds’ Hill Auditorium performance perhaps saw
the singer testing the waters before his summer tour, but the gems
of Sunday’s show were Wainwright and Guster. Regardless of a low
fan turnout and a repeated set list, Folds crooned superbly and
pleased his older admirers, but lacked the emotion and excitement
visible at his prior performance at the University.

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