Review: @ebenet and @itsBMcKnight melt Manchester into a puddle

Eric Benét and Brian McKnight Melt Manchester into a Puddle

For once it wasn’t the rain.

The Ritz stage: Ready for Eric Benét and Brian McKnight
The Ritz stage: Ready for Eric Benét and Brian McKnight

In between the smoochy couples, girlfriend groups and trios of boys  ready for a night of romance – I walked in with my sister, ready to admire the view of Eric Benét up close, get lost in his velvety voice -and go home.

I realised pretty quickly that Brian McKnight was the  man everyone else was waiting for. I didn’t know what to expect from him as I’ve only seen a couple of his videos; “Back at One” was the only song of his I could have named at the beginning of the night.

The itinerary was set, to my delight, as I have recently endured a Mos Def gig – excuse me – Yasiin Bey gig, who seemed to be dragged on stage after 10PM,  then told off the upset crowd and walked off  after less than 50 minutes on stage.

DJs Steve-O and Miller were a good warm-up act. Sometimes their song choices blended well into each other, at other times Steve would MC and stop the song to build up another classic. Think “No Scrubs”, “One More Chance”, “You Don’t Have to Call”, “(Doo Wop) That Thing”, “F*ing You Tonight”, “Jumpin’ Jumpin”.

I was a bit horrified that Steve  built up “You Remind Me” as an old song for the over 35s to remember clubbing to back in the day in their Gap hoodies and Ellesse trainers – only for my sister to remind me – it is an old song now (2001).

Eric Benét  entrance

At 8.30 PM Eric Benét just casually walked on stage,  I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t the fact he came on time,  as Janet Jackson also stuck to an itinerary on her Number 1s tour, but it was because he came on without hype.

There was no build up; it was a mellow entrance , he got a nice welcoming reception but I expected more buzz. This didn’t take anything away obviously, it’s just an intro and  the excitement came from his delivery and his alluring presence.  He looked and sounded so good centre-stage in his shades, Tokyo jacket, flashing a sliver of stomach every now and then as he danced.

I wasn’t even prepared for the mellow vibe of the crowd. Nobody pushed into me and I was third row centre. In fact I could have been second row centre. There was space for another person in the gap between me and the girl in front, yet there was no shoving. This was definitely a concert for grown-ups – the DJ hadn’t been wrong – his set represented it, the artists reflected it and the crowd for sure were it.

Benét had a tight band, a female vocalist and a male vocalist on keyboard.  He performed “Spend My Life” – his number one duet with Tamia with  his backing singer and it was a sweet performance, reminiscent of Michael Jackson and Siedah Garret performing “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”.

Eric Benét and band perform "Spend My Life"
Eric Benét and band

Not only was Eric Benét in top form vocally, he looked so happy to be there. It was an intimate show as he looked the audience  members in the eye and spoke with the crowd. He gladly performed for the iPhones and video cameras, which meant he spent time a lot of time centre-stage for the lady in front of me who filmed the entire set. I look forward to seeing her videos on Youtube.

I was glad he didn’t leave the stage without singing “Why You Follow Me” and “Georgy Peorgy” as “A Day in the Life” (1999) was the album that introduced me to him. These songs plus “Chocolate Legs” seemed to get the biggest audience reactions too.

Brian McKnight serenades the crowd
Brian McKnight serenades the crowd

He left me and my sister in such a good mood, he was worth our trip. Concerts can be high-risk when you’re over 30 – life-long bubbles are at risk of being burst.

We could tell there was excitement for Brian McKnight so we waited. The time came, the build-up began, the spotlights flickered, girls screams suddenly reached fever-pitch, chants from boys boomed “Brian Brian” – I saw men with their video cameras ready. It was me who wasn’t ready for what I was about to witness – eruption – Brian McKnight was here to satisfy the crowd’s needs – punctual too at 9.45 PM, just like the itinerary said he would be. I was pleased already, he made me forget my over-30 feet were hurting.

The energy was infectious, he came out and I moved left and right when Brian said to. There was hardcore love for the man, the crowd knew every word. The last button of his shirt was undone, revealing a bit of toned belly and a Louis Vuitton belt. When the crowd weren’t singing along they were screaming, especially when McKnight rocked his hips or brushed his shirt with his hand.

Brian invited the crowd to sing along, reach out and touch the person next to them. I looked for my sister – who was stood behind me and I shook her hand – a woman behind me on my left delicately held my shoulders and I smiled at her – the power of music to bring people together!

Brian thought he would whip the crowd into a frenzy inviting a girl on stage, little did he know he picked “God’s child” she said her name was as he held the mic to her on the stage. As he serenaded her she told him “Don’t touch my hair”, she dropped her pack of cigarettes and picked them up, she patted his back for singing so well, then she seemed to nuzzle his chest for a minute and move a bit lower and lower down his chest. Brian looked at the audience for help.

It was all good fun, the crowd loved her, she was great to watch on stage with him.  He kissed her goodbye then and it was a memorable moment.

Brian played with a couple of different guitars through the night. “Crazy Love” and “Still” are really great Brian McKnight crowd pleasers although “Back at One” was the one the men were requesting and McKnight knew this. He left it for his outro.  He was great to the audience, dedicating songs requested from Manchester twitter users and performing till 11.10 PM and coming back for an encore.

I did not know what to expect from both of these top male vocalists. Eric Benét  was just how I envisioned, beautiful to watch and listen to.

Brian McKnight was a true professional and funny man. What a great performer, his vocals were perfection and again, like Eric Benét, it seemed not only a joy to perform but effortless for him. It was really enjoyable to see two artists who do what they do so well and look as pleased to see the audience as we were to see them.

Catch Brian McKnight and Eric Benét on tour
Catch Brian McKnight and Eric Benét on tour

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