Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ageless music and vocal prowess energize Austin-Benson show

(Published Sept. 10, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
Photos by Arnold Almacen

Inimitably warm and energetic, seasoned R&B and jazz artists Patti Austin and George Benson, with distinguished balladeer Joe Pizzulo, attracted a surprisingly diverse crowd at the Big Dome on Thursday.

You’d think that the gracefully aging performers would appeal more to fans of a similar age group or generation, but attendees of the “George Benson Inspiration Tour” concert was a pleasantly mixed crowd. There were seniors, as well as thirtysomethings and even teens, visibly giddy as these esteemed singers performed their hits from years past.

Patti Austin’s 10-song set kicked off the show. In a shimmery outfit, the 63-year-old singer—silver-gray locks and all—was graceful and elegant onstage. She started with the smooth “Say You Love Me,” from her 1976 debut album. Immediately following this up with the beloved breakup anthem “All Behind Us Now,” she was joined by fans eager to sing along.

Her rendition of “Baby, Come to Me” was especially memorable. She showed off her range as she sang James Ingram’s parts! “So now you don’t miss James Ingram too much,” she jested after the number.

Aptly sounding forlorn but still soothing with “If I Believe,” Austin also sang her version of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and her more upbeat ’80s single, “Rhythm of the Street.” She then introduced Joe Pizzulo (who was scheduled to perform with her last night in Davao).

Pizzulo, 62, sounded just like he did three decades ago, back when “Never Gonna Let You Go” and “What Do We Mean to Each Other” rotated on pop radio. He performed one song, “Take This Love,” to tremendous applause.

After a 25-minute break, George Benson started his set with his popular cover of Roberta Flack’s “Feel Like Making Love.” He followed with the soulful “Kisses in the Moonlight.”

The 10-time Grammy winner, now 70, joked that it took him “50 hours from the airport to the hotel,” which elicited resounding laughter. He immediately praised Filipinos for being “wonderful.”

Austin joined Benson on their old duet, “Moody’s Mood.” He got more playful with the disco-era vibe of “Give Me the Night,” and gave a differently affecting iteration of the 1980s ballad “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You.”
 He picked up his guitar and played from time to time, dazzling with dexterity and mastery of style, and meshing nicely with his talented band.

He played a new single, a jazzy version of Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable,” from the recently released album “Inspiration.”

Benson’s hour-and-a-half set was animated, rousing many audience members to dance to a couple of numbers. The songs on the lineup were just a handful from three dozen albums that span several decades.

The music and artists of the night brought back memories and probably created new ones—it was a special, nostalgic spellbinder, surging with vocal prowess and ageless sonic synergy.

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