REVIEW: George Benson at the Royal Albert Hall

George Benson at the Royal Albert Hall
Photo credit: Paul Wood

George Benson
(Royal Albert Hall. 26 June 2018. Review by Georgina Williams)

As I took my seat in a what seemed to be a sold out Albert Hall, I noticed fairly quickly that I was outside the average age demographic of 50+. No matter. Despite not fitting within the age bracket of people who had been fans of George Benson since he released his first album in 1964, it was perhaps one of the most enjoyable concerts I have been to in a long time.

Benson swaggered on stage in a suitably suave black dinner jacket, oozing disco charm. “Not bad for 75,” the women beside me giggled, as he began with a rendition of Love Times Love complete with hip thrusts sending some in the audience into fits of  “I love you George!”.

Next we had Breezin’, perhaps Benson’s most famous instrumental track. Benson took two tasteful solos on his signature semi-hollow Ibanez reminding many that he is at heart a jazz instrumentalist.

The setlist seemed to be built around contrast. After something more subdued and with perhaps less karaoke potential, the band would raise the roof with another classic such as Turn Your Love Around which had the whole audience up on their feet and dancing. The song featured a surprisingly burning piano solo from M.D and keys player David Garfield which sent the audience into a frenzy.

The band needed no time to warm up, they were in the pocket from the beginning. It was nice to hear some of the members really stretch out on some of the groovier tunes. Even Lady Love Me (One More Time) with nostalgic Earth Wind and Fire-esque synths and a fair bit of slap bass felt tight and fresh, not at all like a tired rendition of an '80s classic.

It was also clear that this was not a “greatest hits” concert. Benson switched up the set list with two surprising songs. The first, a Wes Montgomery style cover of Norah Jones’s Don’t Know Why. This gave Benson a real chance to bring something new to his fans, despite the fact it was something they could all sing along to. Another refreshing moment was when he asked his young  percussionist Liliana de los Reynes to join him on You Are The Love Of My Life. Her powerhouse vocals somewhat blew him out the water, but Benson made it clear he was proud and supportive of his young band member.

It seemed fitting that Benson received the Jazz FM ‘Impact’ Award after The Ghetto. This piece featured generous solos for Garfield on keys, Reynes on percussion and an extended solo from Khari Parker on drums, as it really was a jazz piece. Benson was credited by Jazz FM breakfast presenter Nigel Williams with “broadening the Church that is Jazz”, which after witnessing this genre bending musician I firmly agree with. Most of the audience were more interested in getting an encore, one last chance to dance to the sounds of their youth. The only real difference was people waved phone torches instead of lighters. Benson left the audience to be played off by the band with a cheeky smile full of life for someone who is approaching their ninth decade. He’s definitely still got it.

BAND

George Benson – guitar, vocals
Stanley Banks – bass
David Garfield – MD and keyboards
Thom Hall – keyboards
Michael O'Neill – guitar
Khari Parker – drums
Liliana de los Reynes – percussion

13 comments:

  1. Absolutely disagree. George’s voice was poor and not a patch on the younger man. Decent enough concert with a few highlights but a poor 6/10 from me 🤔👎

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  2. Shame he was a complete and utter washout the following night, clearly using up all his vocals, he should stick to one night stints now instead of ripping off his long established fan base by not being able to sing two nights on the trot. WithinWthe first hour he gave up and walked off stage.thanks George for the worst concert I have ever attended and yes I have been to quite a few and don't get me started on how much money I have wasted on this one, epic fail.

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  3. He left the stage half way through Wednesday’s gig which was then called off because they said he had no voice. Why? We were there to hear him play.

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  4. Well i am afraid that he really lost it the next night at the RAH. He tried to sing but couldn't. Very sad all round, and the concert had to be stopped. Many of us flew in from around the world just to see HIM and hear his voice

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  5. Last nights concert of George Benson was completely different. He must have over done it the night before as he had lost his voice - not being told this was very disappointing. he should have cancelled. People were walking out after 45 minutes including myself as all he did was instrumentals - such a shame and huge disappointment. Looked forward to it for so long!

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  6. We were obviously not at the same concert, he did four instrumentals, then told people his voice was gone. People booed and jeered. People walked out. George went off stage and didn't come back. He concert finished early and we are getting refunds. Felt sorry for George but it should have been cancelled before hand to avoid disappointment.

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  7. He couldn’t sing. Please don’t omit this. His age, or I’ll health meant that those who didn’t wish to see his jazz guitar brilliance, missed out on why he was world renowned. Why did you not mention this?!!!

    There were audible boos and shouts as number after number were strummed into the ether rather than sung. And this was his SECOND of two nights at this venue with not a word to his visiting public.

    What a con !!!!

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  8. You were obviously not at the Albert Hall last night. Musically very good but George's voice was shot to pieces. It was do sad to see. We walked out half way through like hundreds of others. We thought the last Meatloaf concert was bad because of his voice quality but George should have cancelled Wednesday night.

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  9. I would have loved this but unfortunately I had tickets for last night.............. Still, fair play for giving it your best shot George and rest assured, I enjoyed what you managed. x

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  10. I enjoyed the concert but I noticed some uncertainty at the beginning. Benson wouldn't play impeccably as he used to do (maybe due to the age); moreover, all of them were not really sure of what they will play next, except in the first thirty minutes or so. This made me suspect that Benson would not sing and in fact, when he attempted to do so, it turned quite clear that he had got throat problems. Also, what provoked a real bitter feeling was when some boor guys would boo and offend the band or Benson while he was playing an instrumental version of Danny Boy (?)I left the marvelous Royal Albert Hall disappointed and sorry for Benson at the same time, an artist who re-thinked the role of jazz guitar in modern music.

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  11. Totally agree with you I was lucky enough to have front row seats he was singing great and playing perfect well done George

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  12. I work with Mr Benson. I know for a fact he love his fans, friends he calls them. On the second night of RAH Mr Benson came down with a serious case of laryngitis... he didnt k ow it at the time as he had been flawless the 7 shows before... though he nursed his voice all day with different remedies he took to the stage and gave it his best, this has never happened befor in his 56 years of touring. He is by no means washed up and Im quit sure some of you have came up ill and couldnt go to the job and its only a drive down the street. Some of you have said some harsh things and i understand. He finished the tours last 3 shows in rare form and he will be back to London

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