Mrs. Roddus was very keen on this one as old George played here doing a Nat King Cole tribute. I had missed Benson last time he was here and was curious to see him live as he has a fearsome reputation as a world class Jazz guitarist. I don't own any of his music and have no interest to, but it was worth while going to see him. I wasn't all too keen to go out of my way for this concert as Nat King Cole really isn't my cup of tea but as Mrs. Roddus was really keen and I refused to go with her to Simply Red last month, I thought this concert was worth making the effort for her. They were advertising that they would play some other stuff in the second half of the show.
The first thing was that due to lack of ticket sales, the venue was changed from the Westpac Trust center to the Christchurch Town hall. Although this wasn't so good for George and his large cast of supporting musicians, it was good for the audience, as the Town Hall is a much better venue for this sort of music, better acoustics and a more intimate setting.
The Concert started promptly at 8:00pm with the appearance on the stage of a rather oldish looking gentleman introduced as Roy Something(I didn't catch his last name), who sat as the front of the stage behind a set of Keyboards and started to play this very slow, melancholic, late night jazz sort of stuff, with corny lyrics to do with love and relationships etc... Sounded like he should be playing in one of those late night bars where all the patrons come to drown their sorrows with smooth jazz being played in the background by some old bloke. It nearly put me to sleep and the first two songs he did like this seemed to go on and on forever. One thing about this guy was he was a very good singer and His voice had a familiar sound to it, quite distinct, but I just couldn't place it. After he finished playing the first two songs, with some of the audience nodding off, he introduced him self saying this was the first time he had played here since 1969 with a band called the Peddlers. Things fell into place after that announcement and he then told us a funny story before playing some of The Peddlers songs such as "Girlie P.S. I Love You" and "Birth" off the 1969 "Birthday" album Of which I used to have a copy on vinyl some time back. Roy also played "Last Train to Clarksville" among some other songs, before departing after his short set. Once I knew who he was I took a bit more interest in his music.
After a drinks break, on came George, and started into his Nat King Cole Tribute, after the first number of some uptempo jazz, and some great guitar work. He was backed by his band and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and although I am not moved much by Nat's music, I was intrigued to watch and listen to the orchestra's playing on the songs and enjoyed some of the subtle string melodies backing the songs. George was upfront and the quintensentuial showman and won the crowed immediately. As well as an excellent guitarist, he is also a powerful singer and did justice to Cole's material. I had noticed the group of back up singers that he had used on a couple of the songs and they too were a powerful sounding bunch and for one song, One of those soppy Cole love songs or what ever, he was joined by the chorus leader, a tall and slender blond who had the most awesome powerful voice I have heard live for a very long time. Although I didn't like the song it's self, The woman's(I don't remember her name) vocal performance was outstanding. She was capable of raising the roof of that hall and I noticed when she was really giving it her all on some parts of the song, how she dropped her microphone away from herself , but her volume didn't diminish. Very Impressed. Once dispensed with the Nat King Cole set, George started in on his promise of a George Party and got stuck in to some more uptempo funky jazz stuff, which had me tapping my foot vigorously. As He then toned it down for some of his more commercial stuff I was reminded a lot of Stevie Wonder. Some of this material was a bit slower and not as much to my liking and while this was happening I was trying hard to remember what song it was he had had a big hit with back in the very early 80s, which I remember was thrashed on the radio here. "Give Me The Night" was that song, and no sooner had I remembered it when He started into playing it. This got the crowd to its feet and dancing in the isles. This was the last song but the crowd roared for more and a long introduction to each member of the band was followed by a couple more uptempo tracks and an impressive solo from the drummer.
Apart from George's Scat singing along with his guitar playing in places and the use of backing tapes on a couple of songs it was a worthwhile concert and enjoyed by both myself and Mrs. Roddus. Well Done George.