full of soul

Ge­orge Ben­son’s mu­sic is still soul­ful af­ter all these years.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ENVIRONMENT - By STEVEN PA­TRICK en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

THERE are two Ge­orge Ben­sons, re­ally...

First, there’s the Wes Mont­gomery-in­spired jazz gui­tarist of the 1960s and sec­ond, the owner of the soul­ful tenor voice of the 1970s, that makes women weak in the knees.

“Both Ben­sons” were in top form last Fri­day at one of the two con­certs he per­formed in Kuala Lumpur.

The 67-year-old played the jazz gui­tar like there was no to­mor­row and sang like it was 1977. He de­liv­ered a per­for­mance that ri­valled one that this writer saw al­most a decade back.

Ben­son proved to be still a nat­u­ral mu­si­cian and singer who is far from be­com­ing a staid din­ner-show retro act.

There’s noth­ing more pleas­ing than hear­ing an artiste de­liv­er­ing ma­te­rial with the same gusto as when it was first recorded ... and that’s just what the man did at the Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur ball­room, to an au­di­ence of about 1,000.

“I can’t be­lieve his voice still sounds the same,” gushed a mem­ber of the au­di­ence.

The man had soul and was in­fec­tious in con­cert. There was no stage the­atrics or fancy moves with Ben­son – just him, his gui­tar, his band and his mu­sic ... and that was more than enough to woo the crowd.

Not once did his smooth tenor of a voice fal­ter. His jazzy gui­tar play­ing was not any­thing to be scoffed at ei­ther.

We’re talk­ing here about a Pitts­burgh na­tive who has played with the le­gendary Miles Davis.

But Ben­son wasn’t just about se­ri­ous jazz licks.

There was also the ro­man­tic side of him that his fans know so well.

Ben­son played the ul­ti­mate song for star-crossed lovers, Noth­ing’s

Gonna Change My Love For You, which most Gen-Xers will re­mem­ber as a slow-dance stan­dard back in the days of big hair and baggy trousers.

He also did the bit­ter­sweet Mas­quer­ade, much to the au­di­ence’s de­light. He sang both songs pitch per­fect and more im­por­tantly, emo­tion per­fect.

But hang on a minute ... Ben­son wasn’t just about mel­low ro­man­tic moods, he turned up the tempo, de­liv­er­ing songs like the in­fec­tious funk of Turn Your Love Around and Gimme The Night to an en­gaged au­di­ence.

And if that wasn’t enough, Ben­son was also a philoso­pher that night. He sang the goose-bumpy poignant ode to lov­ing one­self – The Great­est Love Of All – a kind of lyrical cousin of Frank Si­na­tra’s ma­jes­tic My Way, if you like.

Ben­son’s de­liv­ery of this clas­sic proved to be the night’s biggest moment.

He spoke to the crowd a bit, jok­ing about look­ing in the mir­ror to see how much of an Ir­ish­man he was. Yes, the man claimed he had Ir­ish blood.

Ir­ish blood or not, as we said, the man’s got soul ... and jazz and funk, too.

Ben­son was backed by a five-piece band dur­ing his 75-minute show, which did a com­mend­able job.

He did one en­core, which in­cluded a jazzed up ver­sion of On Broad­way, which got more cheers from the po­lite au­di­ence.

Ben­son proved he was def­i­nitely at home on the stage. Af­ter all, he be­gan per­form­ing in clubs at the age of eight, be­fore be­com­ing a jazz gui­tarist in the 1960s and mak­ing the change to pop­u­lar 1970s and 80s sing­ing star.

Myth has it that Ben­son was ini­tially re­luc­tant to be­come a solo sing­ing star. What a mis­for­tune that would have been to the world of mu­sic.

The char­ity gala din­ner Ben­son per­formed at was or­gan­ised by In­sti­tut Tengku Am­puan Afzan (In­taz), a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion for spe­cial and un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren, in con­junc­tion with the 80th birth­day of Pa­hang’s Sul­tan Haji Ah­mad Shah Al Musta’in Bil­lah.

Open­ing acts were Datuk Siti Nurhal­iza, Datuk Khati­jah Ibrahim, Datuk David Aru­mugam, Datuk Yusni Hamid and Datuk Sheila Majid.

The event was spon­sored by Re­sorts Gent­ing.

Ben­son also played in the Arena of Stars, Gent­ing High­lands, last Sun­day.

Liv­ing leg­end: Ge­orge Ben­son mes­merised

his fans at his con­cert over the week­end.

The open­ing acts were: (from left) Datuk Sheila Majid, Datuk Siti Nurhal­iza, Datuk David Aru­mugam and Datuk Khati­jah Ibrahim.

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