George Benson @ The Rocks
In: Going out27 Jul 2011
ONCE again, the Rocks hotel has put on a spectacular show and hosted the singer and virtuoso guitar legend that is George Benson.
Once again, Turkish TV star, Mehmet Ali Erbil was the warm up man and he certainly roused the Turkish speaking element of the audience, telling jokes and interacting with the ladies.
Slightly later than anticipated, but looking extremely composed in loose fitting clothes, Mr Benson came on stage, with his five piece band and stayed there for over one and a half hours, much to the delight of the appreciative audience, most of whom looked young enough to be his grandchildren.
Benson, a 10-time Grammy award winner, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 22 March 1943. He started his career at the ripe old age of seven, playing ukulele at a drug store (chemist). By age eight, he was playing in unlicensed clubs and by age 10 he had his first single called She Makes Me Mad with RCA-Victor.
He opened the concert by playing over 10 minutes of non-stop guitar which, to the audience, confirmed him as a jazz guitarist of unequalled chops (technical ability). He uses a rest-stroke picking technique similar to that of gypsy jazz players like Django Reinhardt. The applause was loud and long.
Of course, fans go to these concerts in the hope that they will hear their favourite song, evoking a cherished memory, and I don’t think there were many disappointed among the crowd on Saturday. They danced in the aisles but quickly moved to the front of the stage where they stayed for the duration of the concert.
Singing such classics as Turn Your Love Around, In Your Eyes and Somewhere Beyond the Sea, he turned to the audience and announced: “This one is for the ladies in the audience,” and sang his 1984 hit from his 20/20 album, “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You.” If there were any ladies unsure of his style at this point, those doubts evaporated as he cradled them all in the palm of his hand and drew them in.
Mr Benson is also in the select few aficionados of scatting, which is the ability to sing improvised melodies and rhythms, to create the equivalent of an instrumental solo using just his voice much the same as Cleo Laine, Al Jarreau and the late Ella Fitzgerald often did. His band, all highly accomplished musicians in their own right, were, musical director and keyboard David Garfield, second keyboard Thom Hall, drums, Oscar Seaton Jnr, bass guitar, Stanley Banks and guitar and vocals, Michael O’Neil.
Announcing that North Cyprus was the last stop of his five-week European The Guitar Man and Summer 2011 tour that began in France on June 23, Mr Benson left the stage to shouts of Encore, encore.
There was never any doubt he would come back because he was obviously having as much fun as his audience. This was the queue for drummer, Oscar “Seatpocket” Seaton Jnr to give his drum solo and the audience reacted with whistles and shouts of appreciation.
Choosing to sing the 1963 hit for The Drifters, and his own hit in 1978, Mr Benson came back on stage for his encore singing On Broadway.
You have to wonder what makes a 68 year man; tour the world, away from his family. You wonder if it’s the financial gain but watching this singer, up on the stage you can see it’s his love of music. It is apparent in every song he sings, every chord he strums. The man is a master of his craft.
Many thanks to the Rocks Hotel. Video – Live at Montreux 1986