Benge outshines headliner 

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Jessica Benge & Daniela Cotton
Saturday, Oct. 8

Those hoping to catch the entirety of Jessica Benge’s set this weekend might have walked out of Birdy’s a little disappointed. According to staff, Daniela Cotton’s band refused to go on any later than 9:30 that evening — quite a bit early for a weekend show, especially for a headlining act. Jessica Benge made her way to the stage around 8:30 for a late soundcheck.

And as soon as that soundcheck began, a surprised audience took notice of the powerhouse voice emanating from the stage. After completing the check, the audience eagerly awaited more from Benge, and certainly assumed that if the soundcheck from the opening act was that good, then the upcoming headliner must be a vocal force to be reckoned with.

As she finally, officially took to the stage, Jessica and her tight-as-a-drum band worked their way through an original set. The common denominator throughout all of the tunes was a solid blues base, but the band managed to effortlessly transition from gritty rockers, to sultry jazz passages, all the way back to the blues. Even with the solid band sound, Benge’s vocals took the cake for the set. Throughout, she consistently hit notes with such power, command and confidence that she left the audience virtually awestruck. Her vocals were pure and pitch-perfect; this woman would make Simon Cowell swoon. Lyrically, Benge has found her strength in songs about love, loss and everything in between put forth in a straightforward, honest tone. For a young woman, especially, she commanded the audience and the stage like a pro.

Daniela Cotton forgot Benge’s name when she first began performing, but no one in the audience did, and Cotton would do well to deliver Benge’s caliber of performance in her career. That said, Cotton also gave a performance that could be described as nothing but powerhouse. Her vocals, too, were spot on and pitch perfect, but with the grit of Melissa Etheridge. Her band provided rock-solid blues backing, while the songs floated from specific genre to genre. At one point, Cotton and the band broke down into what was essentially an a cappella number (which, for a vocalist used to being backed, is THE scariest trick in the book to execute) and all parties nailed it — they were in tune, in synch and blended beautifully.

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