Ben Folds fans got a double treat Friday at Chicago's Vic Theatre.

Not only did they get to see the rock piano man play a nearly two-and-a-half-hour set, but they also will be the extras in his fall 2002 live album and concert video. A crane-mounted camera was zooming in and out over the stage throughout the show, and another camera crew caught alternate shots moving back and forth on the stage behind Folds' piano. But the wry singer-songwriter took it all in stride including the breakage of two piano strings during the show joking about blowing this, his last chance to correct the mistakes he's made all tour. At one point, he took questions from the crowd as a technical glitch was corrected, which led ot him to launch into an impromptu version of Wham!'s "Careless Whisper" when he answered a question about what CD was currently in his home CD player (Wham!'s Make it Big, he said).

He also played a stirring cover of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" (while mugging for the cameras and audience with a pair of garish sunglasses). While it was omitted from his set the last time he played in Chicago, this time around he included his biggest hit with Ben Folds Five, "Brick," which stilled the audience with its somber vibes. On nearly every other song though, from early Ben Folds Five numbers like "Philosophy" and "Kate" to new solo material like "Annie Waits," "Zak and Sara" and his current single "Still Fighting It" (which he explained was written for his baby son), the audience sang along to every word, sometimes almost drowning Folds, himself, out. The singer took advantage of that, encouraging the crowd to fill in the many layered harmonies on various songs that one man and a piano couldn't recreate alone. It was a phenomenal show; can't wait for the video.


Kansas - The Ultimate New On The Shelves:

Epic's Legacy arm has issued a new two-CD collection from '70s heartland rock giants Kansas. The Ultimate Kansas includes 26 tracks spanning the early and middle "hit-maker" sections of the band's career, including "Carry on Wayward Son," "Point of Know Return," "Dust In The Wind," "Hold On," "Play The Game Tonight," "Fight Fire With Fire" and many other FM favorites, like "People of the South Wind," "The Wall," "Sparks of the Tempest" and more. The disc arrives in the midst of a Kansas album re-issue campaign by the label, and a few months before the band's 30th anniversary. It's not the first time Kansas' hits have been collected; this one, which probably has the best track selection, joins a 26-song, two-CD self-titled Kansas box set from 1994 that includes most of the same tracks, and a 12-song single disc The Best of Kansas from the '80s that was reissued in 1999.

Me Without YouThe soundtrack to Me Without You is out on Columbia, and features a host of late '70s-'80s alternative tracks, from Adam & The Ants' "Kings of the Wild Frontier" Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wide World" and Echo & The Bunnymen's "The Cutter" to The Clash's "White Riot" and The Only Ones' "Another Girl, Another Planet." It also includes the more familiar "Just Can't Get Enough" from Depeche Mode," "Skin Deep" from The Stranglers and Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe." There are also new tracks from Super Furry Animals ("(Drawing) Rings Around the World") and Swedish act Lucy Street ("White Horses").

Norman Cook isn't just the man behind the monicker Fatboy Slim; he's also a club DJ. Last summer, Cook staged a dance party on an English beach that drew 35,000 people to hear him mix dance tracks from acts like Underworld, Basement Jaxx, Santos and Left Field, as well as four of his own tracks (though not his biggest hits, "Rockafeller Skank" or "Praise You."). A CD version of that party is now out via MCA as Fatboy Slim Live on Brighton Beach.


The Hives - Veni Vidi Vicious The Hives
Veni Vidi Vicious
(Sire/Burning Heart/Epitaph)

Sweden's The Hives have set the sound of the summer of 2002.

Featuring retro '60s garage-band distortion, manic bass and guitar rhythms, '70s Brit-punk vocals (think Stooges or early furious Clash), Veni Vidi Vicious never slows down.

It's also not an album that came out of nowhere; The Hives got together nine years ago, have issued a couple other discs, and actually first released a version of Veni Vidi Vicious in Europe in 1999. But now it's finally found these shores, and with airplay boosted by the inclusion of "Hate To Say I Told You So" on the platinum Spider-Man soundtrack, the band's blast of retro punk rock is the furious flavor of the moment.

Turn on Chicago's WXRT and you'll hear "Hate To Say I Told You So" amid the station's usual playlist of eclectic rock, and it's popping up in all sorts of other places too; Ben Folds fans walked out of The Vic Friday nodding to the single playing over the club P.A. It's a good introduction for this blast of sonic sneering; tight, fast guitar-riff songs like "Supply and Demand," "Die, All Right!" and "Outsmarted" continue with the same catchy, crazy energy that drives "Hate To Say I Told You So" deep into the headbanging brain.

The Hives have arrived. And if you're looking for some brash, no-pretensions rock to blast out of your car stereo, or to drive your summer beach party, this is one great disc.