Jeans, blazer, waistcoat, shirt, tie, shades; smart and sophisticated was the dress code for Eric Benét at this appearance at the Indigo2. Usually a resident at the Jazz Café, Benét transferred his intimate show to a larger venue without losing any intimacy.
His falsetto alone can command attention in any environment. With the Furious Five as his backing band (John Rich – musical director/keys, Afton ‘AJ’ Johnson – bass, Johnny Johnson – guitar, John McVicker – drums/background vocals), Benét effortlessly entranced the audience singing hypnotic songs such as When You Think Of Me.
With charm and wit, the mesmerizing audio-induced trance was broken intermittently when a talkative Benét shared his musings even hinting at his initial meeting with his ex-wife Halle Berry. Laced with love, his set was the perfect backdrop for couples in the audience who embraced and danced to the romantic grooves.
Chocolate Legs from the Love and Life album got the whole crowd excited as Benét joked about the fans that had questioned his selective song title. He assured them that it was inclusive not exclusive referencing the array of chocolate available from caramel to butterscotch to Latin flavoured chocolate and Wasabi flavoured chocolate!
The sweetness and diversity of Benét’s vocal ability can rival any type of confectionary. Many of the ladies in the audience would happily forfeit chocolate for Benét. There is one lady besides his fiancé Manuela Testolini who perhaps was the envy of all for she shared the stage with him.
Leah Labelle was the sole backing singer. The Bulgarian star of American Idol took the reigns to sing the lyrics made famous by Tamia on the Grammy nominated wedding favourite Share My Life.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin native Benét continued his stellar performance going back to his first album True to Myself with the funky Spiritual Thang before bringing things up-to-date with the melancholy Sometimes I Cry and the haunting Never Want To Live Without You.
As a prelude to songs from his latest album Lost in Time which is tinged with seventies soul, Benét, 40, denounced the heavy reliance on modern technology and auto tune and praised the value of music which hits the heart – relying on real instrumentation and vocal ability. He preached to the converted who echoed his advocacy of passion over profit. Responsive, he not only took off his shades he was also open to requests. Jumping off the stage to shake hands and take photos it was at times hard to see the star but he kept shining.
It wasn’t all jazzy slow jams; Benét knows how to party and the energetic Feel Good, with Labelle taking Faith Evan’s part, and Weekend Girl, were the perfect soundtrack for the fiesta. The party threatened to end early when Benét left the stage but the audience demanded an encore not least because two of his most popular tracks from his second album A Day In The Life had yet to be sung.
The screams and applause were rewarded with the Latin infused Why You Follow Me which exceeds it’s infectious nature live. The party was in full swing now complete with steamy salsa dancing from Benét and the lucky Labelle. Georgey Porgy gave Labelle another chance to step into Evan’s shoes as she took her vocals but his time the duet became a threesome with the crowd enlisted for the chorus having warmed up with scales earlier! The temperature dipped a little when Benét revealed a little too much about one of his band members during their introductions. But if it was a bad move to get too personal it was a better move to pay homage to the King of Pop with a rendition of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. He may have ended with borrowed material but for 90 minutes Benét was unashamedly his soulful self. What more could you ask for?
The UK Corner covers urban entertainment from a British perspective and is written by Fiona McKinson©. She is a freelance journalist and creative writer based in London. Contact her at [email protected]. For more entertainment visit her blog: http://www.thetalentshow.co.uk/theukcorner/