Separately, George Benson and Al Jarreau have triumphed many, many times at the Hollywood Bowl. Maybe it was different earlier on their joint “Givin’ It Up” national tour, but on Wednesday night — their last stop — some things didn’t click for several reasons.
Tour precedes the Oct. 24 release of a Benson/Jarreau recording, “Givin’ It Up,” Benson’s first since signing with Concord. The venture — which contains a drop-in appearance by Paul McCartney — is also a collaboration between Concord and Monster Cable’s new record label, hoping for a synergy of promotional punch that will match Concord’s projects with Starbucks.
At the Bowl, though, Benson and Jarreau mostly did their separate shows, wandering into each other’s acts almost at random for a couple of duets. Jarreau would add lyrics to a Benson hit like “Breezin'” or offer a new lyrical twist on Marcus Miller’s “Tutu.” Benson in turn would decorate a Jarreau showcase like “Cold Duck Time” with brilliant guitar riffing; their version of “Summer Breeze” cuts Seals & Crofts’ original.
For the first time in years, maybe decades, one began to get restless during Benson’s solo act; the band was pedestrian, and though Benson still pushes himself strenuously at all times, the electricity flickered and some of his perennials sounded shopworn. Jarreau, meanwhile, was also saddled by a band that didn’t really give his talent the spark it deserved.
Their traveling sound board produced a bloated, blasting, ill-balanced hash; everyone seemed to step all over each other’s space.
Raul Midon, a solo guitarist/singer, opened with a 15-minute set of Stevie Wonder/Donny Hathaway-influenced material, notable mostly for his accurate vocal impression of a muted trumpet.