Donny Benét @Knust (Hamburg): Review

I don’t know where to start when reviewing anything Donny Benét-ish, but I know it was love at first sight (not ‘love online’) when I came across a copy of his album The Don a few years ago, and that love just grew on me when I learned more about the man behind the persona Donny Benét. To say that Donny Benét is an enigma is a gross misunderstanding. What you see is what you get, and what you get is dazzling.

Donny Benet is simultaneously a joke and not a joke. His rich, middle-aged sleazy persona wears Miami Vice-like flamingo pink suits, sports that porn mustache, and inevitably, women fall at his feet. As a result, the tunes are peppered with sexual innuendos and feature all the cheesiness you can expect; it’s saxophone-soaked songs with titles like “Sophisticated Lover”, “Love Online”, and “Consensual Loving”, songs that paint pastel pictures of movie montage lives full of impossible luxury, sex, success, and sports cars with butterfly doors. Luckily, humor finds its way to the surface, especially in the music videos, rounding the overall experience. Even our stand-in photographer for tonight, a dedicated punk rock photographer, found it amusing enough to stay the whole gig (which never happened at a non-punk rock show ever before).

His self-aware performance and genuinely hilarious persona create a truly unique and memorable live show. Disco-tinged synthpop that takes a romantic lens to look lovingly back at a bygone era, combined with sensual bantering about love, sex, and food (“Second Dinner” is about food, not sex, apparently).

This night, it’s heavy focus on his latest album Infinite Desires but there’s enough time to play some fan favorites as well. In fact, Donny opens up with “Mr. Experience”, the title track of his brilliant 2020 album, and although it’s somewhere between comedy and a pop show, you got to give him that he is a truly skilled bass player. It may not be surprising that he studied jazz double bass at Sydney Conservatorium of Music at the beginning of the 2000s and has been ‘one of Australia’s leading session bassists for the better part of two decades […] and becoming a mainstay on the live circuit’ (Mixdown Mag) – The Don shows off some truly prodigious bass skills. Combine that with his charisma and his sense for deep kitsch and you’ll understand how he kept the audience in thrall.

The recurring sax layers and solos, in most of the songs, hold more face-melting power than entire hours of most contemporary pop radio. And since it’s a journey back to days long gone, we get guitar solos as The Don is accompanied by ‘Australia’s finest guitarist’ – when was the last time you heard a genuinely great guitar solo? All of this is a bit absurd, and everyone is loving it. Songs like “American Dream”, “Second Dinner” and especially “Konichiwa” and “Santorini” – ‘I don’t want you to leave me, on the coast of Santorini’ – fuel the dance floor at Knust.

Donny captivates the audience with his suave stage presence, charismatic dance moves, and commanding bass solos (I love 80s slap bass solos and got more tonight than I have the last three decades), he just entertains us with great panache – fans got what they paid for and a lot more.

A few songs ahead of the last songs he explains how it will work out: they will play two more songs, leave and return when the shouting reaches a certain level, and play two more songs. In fact, he skipped it, turned his back to the audience, waited for the appropriate level of ‘Zugabe’ (Germans shouting for an encore), and turned back again for two more soundtrack of the 80s-like songs, leaving us with an overdose of slap bass solos and sax layers.

It’s hard to summarize a Donny Benét show because it takes time to digest so many different impressions. Sure, it’s a persona playing a type of music rarely heard on the radio anymore but the ‘overall package’ – the character, the bantering, the 80s (!) – is just phenomenal. I think what made this an amazing night is the fact that our punk rock photographer stayed a full night and even enjoyed it.


Photos: Kevin Winiker 
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About J.N.

Music researcher with an unhealthy passion for music and music festivals. Former studio owner, semi-functional drummer and with a fairly good collection of old analogue synthesizers from the 70's. Indie rock, post rock, electronic/industrial and drum & bass (kind of a mix, yeah?) are usual stuff in my playlists but everything that sounds good will fit in.