Backed by a meaty, well-drilled group, Benson delivers a judicious mixture of jazz standards and the big-selling lurve-songs his fans demand.
It takes a true star to fill the Royal Albert Hall on a European Cup semi-final night, something George Benson achieved with customary aplomb. True, the majority of his fans are female and of certain ages but most of their menfolk were also present.
By the close everybody was out of their seats and swaying to the Benson beat with an upstanding, body-popping, hand-clapping abandon that would have astonished their osteopaths.
Earlier, American trumpeter Christian Scott had smartly opened the show with a Dizzy Gillespie tip-tilted trumpet and a terrific drummer named Jamire Willliams in his youthful quartet. They deserved more than their 45 minutes in the spotlight.
George himself appeared a little thicker around the waist than usual but gave a thoroughly compelling performance, singing and simultaneously playing guitar as soulfully and creatively as only he can.
His current album, Guitar Man, is supposed to signal a return to the jazz fold but in large venues like this, commercial factors also apply.
Backed by a meaty, well-drilled group featuring two keyboards, bass, rhythm guitar and drums, Benson paced the evening cleverly, delivering a judicious mixture of jazz standards and the big-selling lurve-songs his fans demand.
Moody’s Mood for Love, Breezin’, Mambo Inn and This Masquerade — a particularly powerful version — were thus interleaved with Turn Your Love Around, In Your Eyes, Never Give Up on a Good Thing and other soul hits, climaxing inevitably with Gimme the Night.
At this point a nearby hen-party of five mature ladies with complicated hairdos began jiving in line abreast. There’ll be some sore ankles in Epping this evening.