ACCORDING to Ben Folds there are two kinds of cities, the kinds that have a symphony orchestra and the kinds that don’t.

The kinds that don’t are crap.

Given the West Australian Symphony Orchestra was the first orchestra to collaborate with the rock star, at Kings Park in 2005, that must make Perth a pretty special city.

In the almost 10 years since those memorable sold out outdoor performances, Folds has collaborated with orchestras across Australia and the United States.

Last night he reunited with WASO at Perth Concert Hall and once again introduced orchestral music to a diverse audience, imploring them to come back and listen to non-pop music.

“My stuff’s not bad, but there is other stuff that is a lot better,” he said in a speech in which he described orchestras as the “highest form of civilisation”, built on the idea that everyone works together in harmony — a concept our politicians struggle with.

“When the rest of us were souping up cars or making out with boys and girls, they weren’t doing that, and that’s why they’re so good,” he joked.

The 17-song set featured most of the biggest hits from Ben Folds Five and his solo career — Brick, Zak and Sarah, One Angry Dwarf and audience sing along Not The Same — as well as a couple of surprises.

The first surprise was an elaborate original piano concerto penned by Folds in which he let absolutely let rip on the keys. It might not have been to the taste of classical music aficionados, but it was a lot of fun.

And when he finally acknowledged a eager fan who had shouted out “Rock This Bitch” a couple times, Folds explained it was his cue to hold an onstage composing session.

“You do whatever you want,” he told the percussion and trumpeter, as he made up versus for the bass, cello, violins and horns.

With lyrics based on Perth’s Wikipedia entry, he starting off singing about the city’s population (1.97 million people) and the Swan River Colony, before morphing into a chorus about his friend, and local hero, Tim Minchin.

As a teenager in the late 90s/early 2000s, Folds was part of the soundtrack to my youth. While it’s now more than a decade since many of Folds’ hits were released, his mastery of storytelling means they remain just a moving.

The lyrics to Fred Jones Part 2, a song seemingly about newspaper redundancies before that was even a common thing, now resonate even more.

While Folds was the undoubted celebrity star of the show, he enthusiastically took his lead from conductor Nicholas Buc and was always quick to acknowledge members of the orchestra as the two musical worlds blended faultlessly.

The obligtrary encore heralded Narcolepsy and the thumping Army before Folds — and WASO — finished with a deserved standing ovation.

Read more: Review: Ben Folds and WA Symphony Orchestra at Perth Concert Hall

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