At about 9pm last Saturday in Victoria Island, Lagos, the streets were quiet and deserted, creating an unusually free traffic flow. It didn’t take long before the reason became obvious: the accomplished guitarist, George Benson, was in town and several residents who would have ordinarily clogged the traffic had trooped to the grand ball room of Eko Hotel & Suites to see the grandmaster perform live.
Brought to Nigeria for the first time by Smooth fm to perform at an event dubbed ‘Luxury Concert’, George Benson, the 10-time Grammy Award winner seemed in very high spirits. It was said he had been invited by corporate bodies and some high net worth individuals to Nigeria over 25 times. There is no doubt it hasn’t been an anticlimactic visit for him as the legendary singer spoke of the warmth and love with which he was received. This year’s concert is a sequel to past concerts which began in 2010 with great artistes like Gerald Albright, Angie Stone, Richard Bona, Asa, Jimmy DluDlu, and Pamela Williams holding music enthusiasts spell bound in the previous years.
When considering the weight of a Nigerian singer who has the credentials to share a stage with him, balladist Lagbaja readily crept into the minds of the organizers. “Playing on the same stage with a man I’ve held in awe for ages is living my dream,” Lagbaja said at a press parley preceding the show.
The man Habib Fashinro
He is the silent power house behind the whole concert. A former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Fashinro also called ‘Fash’ by family and close friends has a personality that does not immediately suggest he is a man who loves music to an extent he would go all out to organize a very successful show. He is also the owner of Smooth fm, the radio station that organized the concert. And this year’s edition was sponsored by Guaranty Trust Bank and the Caverton Group with support from Dangote Group, Africa Magic Entertainment, Porsche, Spinlet, Moet & Chandon Champagne, Hennessy, Svengali, Arra Vinyards, Channels TV, Sixth Sense and Sound City.
Unlike what happens in many entertainment shows these days, all the tickets had been sold out before the d-day. The scramble for tickets and pass for individuals covering the show was quite intense. Regular tickets were sold for N20,000 and tables were sold for N1.5 million. Yet the hall was filled to capacity.
All black décor
All the seats and tables were draped in black to reflect the colour of Hennessy cognac. There was a cocktail reception which kicked off at 6pm with choice drinks and finger foods to set a theme of comfort for the massive show.
Hefty men from frontline VIP security company, KSQUARE, manned the four entry and exit points to the hall and courteously too. The class of audience that swarmed the show must have been taken into consideration. And even in disengaging unwanted guests, the men were quite civil in their approach which made strutting the red carpet a relaxing experience.
On the red carpet
With the flexi of the entertainers and sponsors adorning both sides of the wall, the glimmering flashlight of the paparazzi denied access into the hall and on the spot TV presenters spotlighting the red carpet mood, you couldn’t possibly have strayed. Eko Hotel was the best place to be that evening.
Lagbaja’s electrifying percussion
As usual the masked one thrilled the audience who had trooped in to have fun. The musician seems so happy playing alongside a legend like George Benson. He played all his hit songs that saw the audience singing along and swaying to the rhythm. The founder of the Motherlan’ club in the heart of Ikeja electrified the atmosphere with his engaging songs amplified by rhythmic indigenous beats.
A value for money
He took the stage after Lagbaja’s wondrous outing at about a few minutes before 9pm and the audience got lost in the awesomeness of George Benson’s performance. His appearance on the stage was greeted with thunderous cheers and he promised to give the audience just what he knew they wanted. Beginning with some of his evergreen classics, transiting from there to some of his more contemporary tunes, George Benson was by no means a disappointment. The nearly 70-year-old singer had the strength of a teenager on stage, he would waltz left and right with his electric guitar mesmerizing his fans who kept on craving for an encore. The show almost climaxed with his miming of Whitney Houston’s song, Greatest Love. And when the audience thought they’d seen the best of him that second, he transfigured into another being with some jazz that saw thousands rising from their seats in awe of this ageless crooner.