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