On Sunday night, George Benson's audience was a crowd with high expectations, and he gave them just what they wanted - a fantastic show.
With the first song, the crowd was tapping feet and clapping hands in recognition and enjoyment of the music. This was clearly a group of tried and true Benson fans, and he gave them his best. He returned their enthusiastic greeting saying "I love you, too."
Benson warmed up with a couple of instrumental pieces, mostly eyes closed, moving with the music, and occasionally furrowing his brow in concentration.
This was an evening of Benson music - almost two hours of it - and yet it was one of tremendous variety. After the first few instrumental pieces, he treated the audience to some of his love songs.
Benson introduced "Love is Here Tonight" from his "While The City Sleeps" album with the comment that he wrote the lyrics. "That doesn't mean they're good," he said, "but I wrote them."
"In Your Eyes" is one of his strongest, and yet gentlest love songs, and he stepped from behind the microphone to get especially close to the audience for this one.
Benson was appreciative of his audience, and stopped at one point to tell them, "We're going to do it all. All I need is a good audience, and then you'll have to run me out of here."
If the audience enjoyed Benson, the band seemed to enjoy performing with him. This wasn't an imposition for them. It was a team effort, and they were out to have fun.
Benson's entourage included six band members, and each was featured at some point during the concert.
Vocalist Katie Markowitz joined him in a romantic duet called "Late At Night" from the "In Your Eyes" album. Each strained to put forth their best voices, moving the audience with a powerful intensity.
From his "Collaboration" with Earl Klugh, Benson played "Jamaica." The voice of his guitar stood out, rising and falling in a constant theme woven through the piece.
Next, Benson introduced "Mimosa," another piece from the same album. "I wrote this one all by myself." "Mimosa" contrasts Benson's jazzy guitar with Markowitz's soft backup vocals.
The energy of Benson and his band was unfailing. A lively rendition of "You Make Me Shiver" brought a standing ovation from the crowd.
Benson concluded the concert with "Turn Your Love Around," a version so bright and enthusiastic that he had almost everyone in Symphony Hall moving or dancing or tapping a foot with the music.
The audience demanded an encore, not halfheartedly, but insistently. And Benson gave it to them.
Musical director and pianist Bobby Finch began by introducing the band, starting with Dave Garfield on keyboards, Michael O'Neill on guitar and vocals, Stanley Banks on bass guitar and foot tambourine, Katie Markowitz as percussion and vocalist, and Jerry Brown on drums.
Benson opened what became a generous encore with his new hit single "Lets Do It Again," followed by "Are We Really Happy Here."
His first big hit "This Masquerade" proved that it is still a hit. He continued to please the crowd with "Give Me The Night" and finally concluded with "On Broadway" which featured Jerry Brown solo on the drums.
George Benson gave Salt Lake his best performance. He fulfilled great expectations - and then some.