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On Fire

   Classic rock and flamenco are an odd combination. In the hands of guitarist Benise, somehow it works.

   This Thursday, Benise and his posse of musicians and dancers will take the Kravis Center stage in promotion of his newest album En Fuego!. Described as a world music and dance spectacular, the show is a high-energy trip around the world, complete with multimedia vignettes, extravagant sets and thrilling choreography.

   Strip away the theatricality and you have Benise the musician, a devote guitarist with a thirst for performance.

   After receiving a guitar at age 11 or 12 (he can't quite recall) Benise locked himself in his room and practiced incessantly. This is where he developed his personal style, a marriage of classic rock—which he grew up listening to—and Spanish guitar influence. "It's taking my rock 'n' roll roots and then adding it with flamenco," Benise says. Flamenco covers of rock anthems are staples of his catalog. Ones featured on his newest album include Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," "Hotel California" by The Eagles, AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" and "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" by Bryan Adams.

   Benise officially began his career far from the glare of the stage lights, on the streets of Southern California. Initially, clubs were unwilling to book an act selling a rock-flamenco hybrid. "There wasn't a club that would hire us," he says. "So we just went out and started playing on the streets." The energy of the streets informed his performances, and eventually he began to book festivals. This is when flamenco dancers joined the Benise team. "I added flamenco dancers because we would do a lot of festivals and I just love the element of a show."

   And what a show it is. This tour, which coincides with the DVD release of Benise Live in China!, is a textured homage to world music. "Every song tells a different story and each has its own energy," says Benise. Some numbers are sensory overloads, reflecting the over-the-top energy of the music. Close your eyes and you might miss a hoard of dancers cha-cha across the stage, a costume change or a video vignette filmed on location around the world. For Benise, the theatricality poses its own problems. "The biggest challenge is to not hit someone in the head with my guitar neck, there are dancers everywhere," he says.

   While many songs are larger-than-life showstoppers, others are understated instrumentals between Benise and his band. In these numbers, Benise feels more at home, reminded of his roots. "It seems like the energy is even more when it's just me and my band," says Benise. "It's like it was when he performed on the streets. It's just a raw energy."

Benise, En Fuego! will be at the Kravis Center this Thursday, November 8. To purchase tickets or learn more, visit kravis.org.


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