I could hear a garble of voices rising from behind Reynolds Hall as I strolled through the Southwest Quad. When I rounded the corner, I saw lines of students spilling out in front of food trucks while others played Spikeball and Kan Jam on the grass. The evening air was charged with palpable anticipation as the gathered Hoyas prepared to meet the “Boy in the Bubble.”
On April 22, singer-songwriter Alec Benjamin took the stage in Georgetown’s McDonough Gymnasium for the Georgetown Program Board’s Spring Concert, winning the hearts of his audience with his humble persona and soaring renditions of his greatest hits.
A 28-year-old singer-songwriter hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, Benjamin ascended to stardom following the 2018 release of his breakthrough single “Let Me Down Slowly.” This past weekend, scores of ecstatic Georgetown students poured into the McDonough Gymnasium to hear this folk-pop icon perform.
I arrived at the concert late and found students sitting clustered around the stage in bright pools of light. I was disappointed to hear that I had missed some engaging performances from the show’s two openers, Georgetown’s own Lyngendary and Zaphyr. Because I was unfamiliar with most of Alec Benjamin’s songs, I was unsure what to expect from the rest of the show, but I still awaited the singer’s arrival with bated breath.
At around 9:45 PM, the overhead lights dimmed, and a young man with short, shaggy brown hair carrying a wooden guitar appeared onstage. Any students sitting on the floor immediately rose to their feet, and the crowd erupted into applause.
Benjamin began by discussing how surreal it was for him to perform at a university due to his own status as a college dropout. Benjamin’s candor with regard to his personal life and soft-spoken tone gave the impression that he was simply having a friendly conversation with his audience, making him immediately likable.
Benjamin’s first song of the evening was “If I Killed Someone For You,” a morose title that belies the song’s deeply moving lyrics about frustration with unreciprocated love. The crowd became a torrent of swaying heads and waving glow sticks as Benjamin belted out the chorus, “Would you love me more/if I killed someone for you?”
Benjamin skillfully guided the audience through the varying tones of his songs, rousing them with the upbeat “Jesus in L.A.” (a song Benjamin was initially reluctant to sing after noticing the enormous cross hanging above the gym’s doors) and bringing them to a more melancholy place with the sobering lyrics of “Devil Doesn’t Bargain” and “Water Fountain.”
One of the concert’s most memorable moments occurred when Benjamin informed the audience that he had written part of his next song as an ode to his sister. He then launched into the solemn yet hopeful lyrics of “If We Have Each Other,” earning uproarious cheers from the audience when he reached the line “So I’m thankful for my sister, even though sometimes we fight.”
Benjamin’s sincerity and amiable demeanor when speaking between songs helped him touch the hearts of his audience throughout the show. His frank and often self-deprecating discussions of personal heartbreak and the anxiety he feels before performing humanized him, helping him connect to a group of college students who may have experienced similar struggles.
The crowd became particularly excited when Benjamin relinquished his microphone and announced that he would sing the acoustic version of his next song before leaping down from the stage into the crowd.
By moving to a position physically level with that of his audience, Benjamin performed a symbolic act of solidarity that befit his relatable persona. After recounting an amusing story about a Salt Lake City gig that went awry, Benjamin performed “The Book of You & I” acoustically while giddy students danced around him.
As the concert drew to a close, Benjamin prefaced the performance of his final song by expressing his gratitude towards Georgetown for hosting him. He then began singing the hit that catapulted him into fame: “Let Me Down Slowly.” The entire audience sang along, belting out beautifully somber lyrics like “Cold skin, drag my feet on the tile/as I’m walking down the corridor.”
The openness with which Benjamin spoke to his audience — along with his uniquely melancholy yet rousing songs — made for a consistently entertaining experience. I will certainly be a member of the audience if Benjamin ever decides to return to the Hilltop.
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