If you are old enough to remember an early new concept for a television network known as MTV you are surely well acquainted with Pat Benatar. When the channel was actually known for playing and breaking new music and artists there were a handful that filled the stations heavy rotation repertoire: Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Madonna, Tina Turner, Cyndi Lauper and Pat Benatar, among others. See a pattern forming; all legends, all million selling artists, all non-manufactured talent. That’s what the music business was about then as compared to now. To say Benatar paved the way for future female entertainers in the music industry would be an understatement. It is because of her and a few other ladies (Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, Joan Jett) the male dominated field pulled back their ‘boys club’ mentality and let the girls do what they do best; rock ‘n’ roll.
Benatar’s mezzo-soprano vocal ability may not have been fully utilized in rock’n’roll but her ‘take no prisoner’ attitude and groundbreaking rock voice found a home and literally kicked ass. Her first LP In The Heat Of The Night was released in 1979 and heralded her first hit HEARTBREAKER which climbed to #23 in the U.S. Her fourth single from the release (written by her future husband Neil Giraldo) WE LIVE FOR LOVE released in 1980 reached #27. Rock audiences all over the world took notice of the beautiful, young woman in spandex whose pouty demeanor was larger than her frame. Women in the audience felt empowered by her presence and performances and men, well, just look at her and you’ll know when the boys had in mind. Pat followed the release up by winning an unprecedented four consecutive Grammy Awards for Best Female Rock Performance from 1980 to 1983 for her second LP, Crimes of Passion, and the songs FIRE AND ICE SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT and LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD. Other singles released from Crimes were HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT (US #9) TREAT ME RIGHT (US #18) and the Rascals’ cover, YOU BETTER RUN (US #42), and the controversial song HELL IS FOR CHILDREN. She married guitarist and producer Neil Giraldo in February 1982.
I have seen Pat (born Patricia Mae Andrzejewski; January 10, 1953) and Neil a few times live in concert with a full band and acoustically on their own. Tonight they have returned to the Hard Rock Live as a four piece (Pat on vocals, Neil – guitar and backing vocals, Mick Mahan – bass, Chris Ross – drums) to a crowd that arrived ready to rock and reminisce. Her repertoire of music spans four decades and has more hits than you can count on your fingers and toes. Benatar’s voice even after all these years is a wonder. Strong, powerful, and non-relenting she belted out hit after hit with ease. She is ageless, timeless and a real class act. Giraldo’s (nicknamed Spyder) amazing guitar work and backing vocals compliment Pat so well it’s impossible to imagine them not playing together. Humorously in one point of the show Benatar commented, “This is the part of the show where we get to sit down because we’re old.” Touche, Pat and Neil, I feel you.
The set list rolled out like a greatest hits CD. Starting the set with a rousing ALL FIRED UP, Benatar dressed in a long back shirt, black spandex pants and high heels appeared confident and playful on stage. Neil dressed in a suit (his jacket only lasted through one song before it was discarded) had is red axe strapped around his neck making it scream and sing all on its own. INVINCIBLE was next as Pat’s angst filled voice rang loud and clear as she demanded “It’s a do or die situation, we will be invincible.” SEX AS A WEAPON gave Benatar a reason to let her long hair down as she shook what her mama gave her. At the ripe age of 60 let me say Pat is as sexy as she ever was and can still shimmy and shake better than most people young enough to be her kids. Her vocals ripped through the arena with a crisp power that was electric as it hovered over the audience with a life all its own.
There were great dialogue exchanges between Pat and Neil as well as with the audience. Pat remarking, “This year we’re celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary; because he’s nuts,” (they’ve been together for 35) was just one of the quips that made everyone laugh and applauded. Giraldo took a seat behind the grand piano on a couple of songs as he swept away the audience with the intros. These songs included PROMISES IN THE DARK and HELL IS FOR CHILDREN. Both were extremely powerful and received standing ovations. WE BELONG got special treatment as Pat once again turned her sights on us. “I guarantee you’ve all sung this at least once at karaoke and in front of the mirror with the hairbrush.” TREAT ME RIGHT came with another story and cemented Benatar and Giraldo in the record books. The video for the song was the second to be played on MTV and Neil was the first guitarist to appear on the channel. The first video was VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR by The Buggles (a three piece band that consisted only of a vocals, keyboard and bass).
HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT and LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD washed over the crowd with a relentless force that left the audience standing on their feet, camera phones held in the air and screaming for more.
The encore tonight proved to be something special, Led Zeppelin interlude included. Returning to the stage Pat and Neil sang LET’S STAY TOGETHER (which she dedicated to the people of Boston) pleading “Let’s stay together / life’s too hard to make it all alone / An’ peace and harmony don’t come in packages with bows / An’ true love ain’t somethin’ you find layin’ around / Don’t you know, let’s stay together”. A medley of HEARTBREAKER and Johnny Cash’s RING OF FIRE followed. Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo in concert are better than they’ve ever been. This is one show you won’t want to miss.