American singer-songwriter Ben Folds, best known for fronting the eponymous alternative rock band that strung together several hits in the 1990s, has been announced as the new headlining act for Livermore Valley Arts' annual Brilliance at the Bankhead fundraising gala in September.
Folds steps in to replace previously signed headliner Randy Newman, who is unable to perform as he continues to recover from neck surgery earlier in the year.
"Mr. Newman regrets having to miss this important fundraising event and sends his best wishes for a wonderful evening, and Livermore Valley Arts is certain that Ben Folds will delight our audiences at the highest caliber level," officials with the nonprofit said in a statement last Friday confirming the surprise switch.
"Ben Folds is widely regarded as one of the major music influencers of our generation, having created an enormous body of genre-bending music that includes pop albums with Ben Folds Five, multiple solo albums and numerous collaborative records," Livermore Valley Arts reps added.
Brilliance at the Bankhead, which is scheduled for Sept. 10 at the downtown Livermore entertainment venue, is the largest fundraising event each year for Livermore Valley Arts, supporting its programming at the Bankhead Theater and Bothwell Arts Center as well as the nonprofit's broad educational and cultural arts outreach activities.
The evening gala, which has tickets still available, features a gourmet dinner by On the Vine Catering, coffee from Story Coffee, live music in the plaza before the show, raffle and live and silent auctions -- in addition to the marquee musical performance.
Livermore Valley Arts announced back in February that Newman, an Oscar- and Grammy-winning pianist and singer-songwriter perhaps known best for his original songs in Disney/Pixar movies such as the "Toy Story" series, would be headlining this year's event and help usher in the Bankhead's celebratory 15th anniversary 2022-23 season.
Newman, 78, shared publicly in early March that he would be postponing his then-upcoming "An Evening with Randy Newman" European tour to 2023, but he was still considered to be ready to headline the Bankhead gala in September.
"Recently, I noticed I was shrinking. People over whom I had towered now towered over me," Newman said on his website in March. "Could this be payback for having written 'Short People'? Turns out, my neck was broken. They operated on me successfully, I think."
"For even now, I look less like an anteater and more like a folk rock artist from the early '60s. But the doctor said I'm not quite ready to tour. I was really looking forward to coming to Europe to perform. I miss performing a great deal and I look forward to a time when I can come. I'm sorry I won't see you this time but I will see you soon," he added.
Even as recently as last month, Livermore Valley Arts still promoted Newman as the gala headliner, but the organization apparently had to switch gears as summer arrived.
Enter Folds -- who climbed the alternative charts with Ben Folds Five in the '90s with their most-recognizable hit, "Brick," along with other singles such as "Army" and "Underground."
"Folds is also an accomplished solo artist who is known for performing arrangements of his music with uncommon instrumentation, including symphony orchestras and a cappella groups, and will impress the Tri-Valley accompanied by the Livermore-Amador Symphony," Livermore Valley Arts officials said.
He currently serves as the first-ever artistic advisor for the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, as well as an active member of the Artist Committee of Americans for the Arts including on the board of its Arts Action Fund.
Folds released his first book in 2019, "a collection of interrelated essays, anecdotes and lessons about art, life and music," which led to a spinoff podcast series, "Lightning Bugs: Conversations with Ben Folds," officials said.
Brilliance at the Bankhead is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 10. Sponsorships, VIP tickets and standard tickets are available. To learn more, visit www.LivermoreArts.org.