The voice of The Peddlers, Roy Phillips, opened with an impressive jazzy keyboard and smoky vocals.
Phillips was an unexpected but welcome treat with versions of Misty, Last Train to Clarksville and his own compositions.
Then came the man we had been waiting for, with his mile-wide smile and rich tones.
Dressed in a black tuxedo, George Benson captured the audience from his opening guitar chords.
As well as using the CSO, he brought some talented singers and musos, including Barbra Streisand’s musical director as his conductor/ pianist.
The lush strings of the CSO were put to particularly good use.
Benson put his own twist on Nat King Cole’s songbook, including When I Fall in Love, Mona Lisa, Ramblin’ Rose, Too Young, Straighten up and Fly Right, Smile and Just One of Those Things.
And, of course, Benson’s classic hit Give Me the Night, which got the audience dancing in the aisles.
The multi-Grammy award winner and hall of famer also shared a snippet of a recording from his child prodigy days 60 years ago.
The sexagenarian virtuoso guitarist has a remarkable voice.
After the Cole tribute, Benson gave us a “Benson party” with his own songs, from jazzy blues, to impressive instrumentals, scat and old school. He possibly felt constrained by Cole’s songs.
He let loose with Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love, In Your Eyes, and more.
More than mere imitation, this was Benson at his best.
For one night, the town hall became an old-school swinging nightclub. Even when he’s paying tribute to a great singer, you never forget, there is only one George Benson.
REVIEW George Benson – An Unforgettable Tribute to Nat King Cole, with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, 8pm, November 16, Christchurch Town Hall. Reviewed by Margaret Agnew. Photo Dean Kozanic