display | more...

Ben Folds Five: The Complete Sessions at West 54th is the DVD release of a June 9, 1997 recording of said band at a soundstage located in Manhattan. The DVD consists of songs found mostly on their then recent release, Whatever And Ever Amen, but also includes songs that were featured on their self titled debut release. An added treat is the lounge-tinged cover of The Flaming Lips song, She Don't Use Jelly.

Along with this performance, the DVD also includes Spare Reels which chronicles some of the band's exploits and adventures in recording The Unauthorized Biography Of Reinhold Messner, and a few previous "live performances". These live performances are, in reality, spliced together from many concerts, something that becomes clear as the clothing Ben Folds wears is apt to change mid-song.

As for the actual performance, the sound and video recording is absolutely gorgeous; due to the fact that the band doesn't stray too far from the recorded versions of their songs here, one can close their eyes and pretend that they're listening to the albums. However, this is where I feel that this recording loses much potential: Ben Folds Five is best seen in a somewhat improvisational mood, and this DVD does not show them in this light too frequently. Ben Folds also seems a bit nervous throughout the recording, but perhaps that can be put down to the fact that this is the first large-scale video recording of the band's performance. A nice feature that the DVD format does allow for is the usage of subtitles to display the lyrics, enabling fans everywhere to sing along karaoke style. Fans of Ben Folds Five who feel the need to collect each and every thing related to the band should definitely pick this up, whereas casual listeners might consider putting their money elsewhere.

Track listing (Tracks 16-23 are part of the aforementioned Spare Reels):
  1. Missing The War
  2. Kate
  3. Battle Of Who Could Care Less
  4. The Last Polka
  5. Selfless, Cold And Composed
  6. Brick
  7. Steven's Last Night In Town
  8. Smoke
  9. Philosophy
  10. Emaline
  11. Theme from "Dr. Pyser"
  12. One Angry Dwarf And 200 Solemn Faces
  13. Underground
  14. She Don't Use Jelly
  15. Song For The Dumped
  16. Battle Of Who Could Care Less
  17. Philosophy
  18. Missing The War
  19. Brick
  20. Jackson Cannery
  21. Song For The Dumped
  22. Don't Change Your Plans
  23. Army