Grand Rapids audiences got a taste of three distinctly different concert experiences on Thursday, from symphonic pop to soulful funk to dance-inspiring Spanish language charm. The photos at Local Spins.
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The skies cleared Thursday just in time for two nationally revered acts to stage outdoor shows for Grand Rapids audiences at the same time that a Grand Rapids favorite moved its dance party indoors.
Thursday’s diverse lineup of summer shows included pop-piano star Ben Folds joining the Grand Rapids Symphony for a sold-out show at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, New Orleans soul/funk/jazz horn ensemble The Soul Rebels playing the summer’s second “Listening Lawn” concert at Studio Park, and Grand Rapids Spanish-language outfit La Furia Del Ritmo pumping up 2023’s first GRAM on the Green event inside the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
At Meijer Gardens, Folds return to the outdoor amphitheater began with 2015’s “Capable of Anything,” followed by a career retrospective that included the likes of “Effington” and “Landed,” and closing with “The Luckiest” from his 2001 solo debut album.
“I have seen Ben Folds three other times, but never with a symphony orchestra,” said West Michigan musician and Folds fan Eric Engblade.
“The Grand Rapids Symphony was top-notch. The orchestra arrangements allowed for more expression of the more touching songs in his catalog such as ‘Gracie’ or ‘The Luckiest,’ and was cinematic and whimsical in songs such as ‘Zac and Sara’ and ‘Effington.'”
Engblade said Folds also emphasized the importance of supporting the local symphony because, “We need them more than they need us.”
“The new songs alongside some classics, like ‘Fred Jones Part. 2,’ prove why Ben Folds is a master craftsman,” Engblade added. “All this, combined with a beautiful night at the gardens made it one of my favorite concerts of the summer so far.”
About seven miles away, New Orleans brass ensemble The Soul Rebels brought its U.S. tour to the Studio Park piazza in downtown Grand Rapids for Midtown’s second “Listening Lawn” concert of the season.
The eight-piece jazz, soul and funk band followed another funky outfit, Tank & The Bangas, which kicked off the series last week indoors due to inclement weather. (View photos below.) Next up in the series: Steep Canyon Rangers tonight (July 21) and The Verve Pipe on Satuday (July 22). Tickets and info here.
Grand Rapids’ own celebrated Spanish-language powerhouse La Furia Del Ritmo (missing their usual lead singer who was sick) revved up its dance-inspiring tunes nonetheless.
“Wonderful turnout for our first night, as we had close to 200 people there indoors, but had we’d been abe to be outdoors, it would have been a packed plaza for sure,” said WYCE station manager Phil Tower, noting the move indoors was made “out of an abundance of caution” due to a severe thunderstorm watch.
“La Furio del Ritmo was amazing and the sound was actually quite good thanks to our sound guy who had everything dialed in perfectly.” (Photos below.) Next up for GRAM on the Green: Sarena Rae on July 27.
PHOTO GALLERY: Ben Folds with Grand Rapids Symphony
Meijer Gardens Amphitheater
Photos by Jamie Geysbeek
PHOTO GALLERY: The Soul Rebels at Studio Park
Photos by Chelsea Whitaker
PHOTO GALLERY: La Furia del Ritmo at Grand Rapids Art Museum
Photos by Joshua Tufts