by Michael P Coleman
One of George Benson’s many hits, “Give Me The Night”, was expertly performed by the man himself in front of an adoring crowd Friday night at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto.
It was a plea with which Benson needn’t have bothered: from the moment he took the stage, the night was all his.
With scintillating versions of hits like “This Masquerade,” “Turn Your Love Around,” “Breezin’,”Never Give Up On A Good Thing,” “In Your Eyes,” and “Love X Love,” the 75-year-old legend didn’t disappoint.
After over 50 years in the spotlight, Benson’s voice is as supple as ever, a fluid, multi-octave wonder that seemed, at times, inexplicably tethered to his guitar. When the artist bellowed the line “And I can play this here guitar” from “On Broadway,” raising his instrument high over his head before a tour-de-force solo, the crowd erupted in thunderous applause.
Benson also delivered a few surprises, including jaw-dropping versions of the Irish classic “Danny Boy,” Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why,” and Nat “King” Cole’s “Unforgettable.”
Throughout the night, the jazz legend displayed both humility — allowing his impressive bandmates to share the spotlight — and a truly prodigious musical gift that’s woefully lacking on today’s popular music scene.
His stage presence was also magnetic: as he wrapped up one of his final songs just before leaving the stage, “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” I couldn’t help but think that Benson could have had his pick of anyone in the audience as a late-night night cap companion.
Hat’s off to George Benson — and thanks to the Gallo Center for presenting the latest in a series of world-class performances.
Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP.
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