George Benson – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre
George Benson – Live Review
Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 2017
by Steve Crabtree – @stevecrab
It’s a nice, warm summer evening in North Yorkshire, as we wander into the Open Air Theatre in Scarborough for a night of R&B, soul and a little splattering of jazz. It’s a nice atmosphere and despite huge numbers strolling towards the seating area, there’s a lot of space and room to manoeuvre. It has got a nice feel this place – and people are in good spirits.
George Benson, the soul legend from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is here tonight. A man whose back catalogue of hits stands up against anybody in the music world. Personally, I’m really excited to see the guy and wonder if, after all these years, he’s going to be able to do it like he did all those years ago.
As people arrive, Fame Academy star Lemar gets things going on stage with a half hour support slot. He’s a chatty fellow, with some good tunes himself. He warms the place up nicely with some of his better known tracks such as ‘Dance (With U)’ and the title track of his new album The Letter. He’s received well, and gets us ready for the main man himself.
George Benson enters the stage to a standing ovation, dressed in white pants, a black jacket and gold medallion. This man is 74 years old, and he is cool. We’re in the presence of a true soul legend, and he comes with an aura. I’m genuinely mesmerised that he’s right there, not ten metres away…
“An evening of hits”
We’re treated to a four minute jazz instrumental intro by Mr Benson as he picks up his signature, gold coloured Ibanez guitar and gets the mood going nicely.
We’ve got the sunshine, we’ve got the fresh air, we’ve got this wonderful music. It all ties together perfectly before ‘Love X Love’ is given an airing and the audience can’t help but beam with delight, and they’re up on their feet dancing. His voice is as perfect as it was 35 to 40 years ago.
There’s a bit of romance to come next when he treats us to ‘Kisses In The Moonlight’, and it’s clear that we’re in for an evening of hits.
Then he breaks off for a while to talk us. He tells us what a lovely evening it is, and what a wonderful venue we’re in. And he’s not lying. It’s my first visit to the Open Air Theatre and the setting and the setup is fantastic. It’s so well thought out, it really is a gem of a place. Whether you’re down the front, or up at the back you’re close enough to the stage to be able to ignore the big screens and watch the guys on stage clearly. You need the bar, or the toilet, you’ve got plenty to choose from and the queues are minimal. It’s marshalled well, with friendly people.
They’ve got a great sound system here too, which puts a lot of the indoor arenas up and down the country to shame.
“Scarborough is dancing”
We have a couple more instrumentals which show off George Benson’s talents on that guitar, and he’s introduced us to the band – all of whom are enjoying themselves as much as the rest of us and are playing so tightly it’s incredible.
But the best instrument on that stage is George Benson’s voice. And he’s singing hits such as ‘Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You’, ‘Never Give Up on a Good Thing’, and “’On Broadway’. His big numbers that will never ever date.
The sun is going down now, and the light show is adding to a mood of funk, soul and dancing. So the ten-time Grammy award winner decides it’s time to turn it up a further notch and gives us ‘Turn Your Love Around’ and ‘Give Me the Night’.
Scarborough is dancing, and Benson is too – he’s having the absolute time of his life. What a man. What a night.
“World class performance”
We’ve had a stunning, vibrant and amazing set from a true soul legend. It’s disappointing that the show seems to have ended so quickly, but after a quick change into a silver jacket, he’s back for an encore, which includes an extra long version of ‘This Masquerade’. He delivers it exquisitely.
And with that, he waves goodbye and we leave with the feeling that we could have him back to do it all again. A world class performance in a brilliant venue. If you haven’t been, you need to visit.
Benson wrote and sang the original version of ‘The Greatest Love Of All’, the song that Whitney Houston had great success with. He didn’t play this tonight, which was a shame… but he didn’t need to. This man is worth his weight in gold guitars and medallions. His greatest hits album will be turned on and turned up in my car throughout the rest of the summer.
Photos by @Kluens