The Spanish guitarist Benise will be appearing in Austin on July 29, but Sun News caught his act in Michigan on July 23. Here is what you can expect.
For me, a small dose of Spanish guitar goes a long way. Even Benise admitted this sort of music has the reputation of being elevator music. This concert, which runs about 90 minutes, was too much for my taste. Certainly, nearly everyone at the Macomb Centre, about an hour drive north of Detroit, was already a fan of Benise. This was his third appearance in the Detroit area, so he has a good fan base to attract a decent crowd.
I found his rendition of Moonlight Sonata, a la Beethoven, to be the highlight. Visually, it featured the Moon on the big screen. At first very large but gradually distancing itself, at which time a rain and lightning storm hit. Quite effective. Meanwhile, a ballerina evoked the Romantic era of the early 19th century, which was a sheer delight. Musically, this version was released by Benise in 2018, and it has become one of his most notable performances on stage.
The ballerina, Natalie, also performed beautifully in a rendition of Ave Maria. She is one of four female dancers Benise employs in the show. One is an expert at flamenco dancing, which was also a fan favourite. I would like to have seen at least a couple of male dancers in the cast, as it often looks like “Benise and the chicks” on stage.
They certainly add a much needed flair to the show, as there are no vocals. If one just watched Benise strumming a few chords and twirling his guitar it would be quite boring. He has two backup guitarists, and one of them (known as the Milkman) actually gives us most of the Spanish guitar music that one hears. One patron said that you can’t actually tell if Benise is any good with the other two guitarists overpowering him. A real Texan, he said the show is “all hat and no cattle.”
Another patron complained the show needs more finesse with the transitionals. Going from one genre of guitar (inspired by Beethoven, for example) to another that is straight from the streets of Havana, feels choppy. But for a true Benise fan, it doesn’t matter. This is a transfer of his talent into the heart and soul of his audience. From Def Leppard to salsa to sweet serenades, the musicians appeared to be genuine in the energy they emit, and that made for a enjoyable journey. Just kick back and enjoy it.
Benise is just starting a 40-city tour that will extend into 2014. For tickets here in Austin, go to www.acllive.com
Photos by C Cunningham, copyright SunNewsAustin