On Tuesday night in Tempe, the “Bitch Went Nutz,” but at least she managed to give Ben Folds back that black t-shirt he’s been pining for since “Song for the Dumped.”
When word leaked that Folds would be hitting the stage at 7:45 — seventy-five minutes after the show began with an ASU Homecoming announcement and brief set by local Phoenix band, Reuben’s Accomplice — the low-key atmosphere of ASU’s beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Gammage Auditorium turned to fidgeting excitement as anticipation began to seep through the crowd.
Teasing us with contradictory audible foreplay, the first sign that the mood was about to change was with the eerily recorded sound of a strange, near yogi-like chant of a low-pitched guttural “om.”
Rather than calming us down into meditative submission, though, Folds rushed out with his band and launched into “Way to Normal,” eliciting screams so loud it was evident that he (and not the audience) would set the tone — and define what "normal" would mean — for roughly the next two hours. Lucky for us as well as Folds, who seemed genuinely thrilled to have the continual “gig playing for smart-ass college kids," "normal" has always meant something very, very different than the Webster's definition.
Despite opening with “Way to Normal,” he remarked that the song, which shares the name of his latest and most successful solo album (his third since the demise of the Ben Folds Five), actually doesn't appear on the album. Further explaining that he’s created fake songs for all of the tracks on the album — which he leaked online — Folds ended up playing both fake and real versions of many of Normal's cuts, introducing or distinguishing between the two along the way.
In one of the more memorable “fakes” performed in his first set of “new shit,” he led into the alternate version of “Bitch Went Nuts.” A quintessential Ben Folds story-song with evocative imagery and odd analogies seasoned with topical references, the fake “Bitch Went Nutz” tells the sad tale of a young Republican lawyer whose upstanding, fellow church-going Republican colleagues give his date cocaine at a Christmas party, only for her to show her true colors as a “leftist liberal,” spouting off enough Democratic rhetoric to cost him his career. Taking on the character of the song, Folds acted out the part of the lawyer, delving into an hysterical burst of humor (that’s been cropping up repeatedly on YouTube and in bootleg concert footage).