George Benson performing at The Symphony Hall Birmingham on Monday 18th June 2018.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

George Benson has reached the point in his career when the epithet ‘legendary’ is not only appropriate but absolutely accurate. So when the lights at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham dimmed last night and the voice announced “ladies and gentlemen please welcome the legendary George Benson”, nobody argued.

Now 75 years old, this ten time Grammy award winning artist whose career has spanned over five decades, seen him boast thirty six albums, sell over ten million records worldwide, had this capacity crowd in the palm of his hand from the off.

He sauntered on to the stage, gave a little shimmy for the ladies and picked up his Ibanez guitar and eased his way into Love X Love, which had the crowd singing and dancing early on.

To remind everyone that first and foremost he was a guitarist, having learned to play at 8 years old , he delivered an outstanding solo instrumental effort with Bleedin’ which was followed with Stevie Wonder’s Lately that received the Benson treatment but this time accompanied by a very talented six piece band. Later in the set he played a blistering solo jazz arrangement of Danny Boy, which took that most traditional of tunes to a different place altogether.

But it was his hits that most people wanted to hear and he played most of them. He delivered the big numbers that never date such as Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You, In Your Eyes, and Feel Like Making Love, whilst Never Give Up On A Good Thing sent the crowd into a bit of a frenzy, and Let Me Love You One More Time had the crowd swaying their arms aloft and singing along to every word.

Whilst the band were very tight and never missed a beat, the best instrument on stage was Benson’s voice, especially as it was nicely warmed up for a lovely cover of Norah Jones’ Don’t Know Why accompanied by the delightful Lilliana De Los Reyes who stepped out from behind her percussion instruments.

Most of the crowd where on their feet at the opening bars of Turn Your Love Around, and clapped in appreciation as he treated them to a hip grind which had the ladies in the crowd screaming. During On Broadway he introduced his band and as each had a turn in the spotlight, they were acknowledged appreciatively.

By the time his 1980 hit, Give Me The Night was given an airing, the whole evening had been turned up a notch. Finishing his set with his latest release Humility; a collaboration with the innovative virtual band, Gorillaz, Benson showed that despite his twilight years, he is still a force to be reckoned with.

Is he a legend? With his wonderful classics and delectable ballads coupled with his sublime guitar playing, most certainly he is.