10 December 2007

Benny Mardones in Concert

What: Benny Mardones
Where: Turning Stone Resort & Casino
When: Dec. 8
Time: Two hours and 14 minutes
Crowd: 678

An enthusiastic crowd waited in the Showroom at Turning Stone when, against medical advice, Benny Mardones walked onto the stage for his eleventh annual Christmas Concert.

“There was no one who believed I’d make it to the Christmas show tonight. Not my doctors, even I had some doubts,” Mardones, 61, said.

Mardones, nicknamed “The Voice” for his vocal range, performed 17 songs in a concert that lasted over two hours, standing for most of that time, when two months ago he was unable to walk. A car accident on October 17 of this year left him hospitalized, and only though physical therapy was he able to reach his goal of making it to Verona for the Christmas concert in Central New York, which Mardones calls his “adopted home town.”

“I told the nurse, tell me what I have to do, and I’ll do it. She said, ‘I don’t think that’s going to be possible. I said, tell me what I have to do to make it possible.”

The fans that came out for the concert were overjoyed by his persistence and hard work, calling him back for an encore after he and the band had already left the stage.

The end result was a concert that was at once jokingly light and intensely personal. Mardones shared stories behind his songs, including his hospital stay, and introduced family and friends who had come to the concert, bringing them onto the stage for the audience to see.

His accident and his Parkinson’s Disease (which he was diagnosed with in 2002) have not left lasting impressions on his voice, which was still smooth with flavor and yet rough around the edges. He sang only one Christmas song, preferring instead to stick to the classics that made him a star in the 1980’s such as “Sheila C.” and “Into The Night.”

Mardones performed with the Syracuse-based band the Hurricanes, which includes singer Kim Fetters, whom Benny invited upstage with him to perform two duets and one song on her own.

When Mardones returned to the stage, he sat in a chair for two songs before having a stage hand take it away. “I don’t need no stinking chair,” he said.

Mardones also sang “The World Can Change” as a tribute to American soldiers in Iraq against the backdrop of an American flag. A veteran of Vietnam, Mardones brought onto the stage a friend who had served in Asia with him, and a military nurse who had just returned home from the Middle East.

These moments of gravity were coupled with moments of comedy as well, including knocking a mic stand into the audience, and an especially memorable moment when someone had to tell Mardones that his fly was down.

The crowd couldn’t get enough of Benny and the Hurricanes. They called for an encore, then waited en masse outside the Showroom for Mardones to make an appearance after the concert. In the opinions of the attendants, next year’s concert can’t come fast enough.