“Where the hell are we?” So asked Pat Benatar during her concert appearance at the Good Life Festival held at the Encanterra Country Club, about forty five miles southeast of downtown Phoenix, in San Tan Valley, Arizona on February 25, 2012. Although she was referring to the location of the event, she might very well have been asking the question as it related to her career or her personal life. As to both issues, the answer is she’s right where she wants to be. She can pick and choose where and what she wants to perform. “I’m 59 now, I make the rules,” she told the audience when begrudgingly performing fan favorite “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” After having just celebrated her thirtieth wedding anniversary with her husband and guitarist Neil Giraldo this last week, the playful interaction and affection between the two on stage remains genuine. In other words, it’s a good life and her audience is lucky enough to get to have that shared with them.
The crowd leapt to their feet as the concert began with “All Fired Up,” Pat, looking resplendent in her black outfit and Neil, dapper in his black suit (note to east coast based artists, if you are going to play Arizona on a gorgeous, sunny, cloudless spring like day, maybe black isn’t the best color of choice). From the get go it was obvious Benatar has not lost any of the power of her voice. Given Benatar’s diminutive stature, if this had been “American Idol,” the judges would be asking, “where is that voice coming from?” But those that have followed Benatar’s career have known it from the start. The brilliance of her voice was reinforced by the next number, the crank it up loud, “Shadows of the Night,” followed by one of Pat’s personal favorites, “Invincible,” complete with bass solo by bassist Mick Mahan.
When introducing “Promises in the Dark,” Pat shared that she was shy when she first wrote the song, pushing it under Neil’s door for him to review. Given the song’s popularity, the ploy worked as Neil began the song’s piano introduction and then kicked it up a few notches as he blistered the rest of the song with his guitar work. Pat may get most of the attention due to her singing but Neil’s guitar playing is equally masterful. He’s also pretty gracious in handing out souvenir guitar picks. Maybe it was due to, as Neil pointed out, the pleasure of getting to do a “full gig on a golf course.”
The rest of the afternoon was hit after hit, from the acoustic version of MTV’s second ever aired video, “You Better Run,” to the often karaoked , “We Belong,” and the hugely popular “Love is a Battlefield, “ whose “we are young” lyrics seem ironic given the average age of the audience.
The afternoon ended all too quickly with the best received song of the day, “Heartbreaker,” Pat’s growling of the words sounding as fresh as it was thirty three years ago and the three piece band, Giraldo, Mahan and drummer Chris Ralles sounding much bigger than just a trio.
It’s hard to believe Pat Benatar’s next birthday will be the big 6-0. She doesn’t look the part nor sound the part. Maybe because at this point, she’s making all the rules.
Set List: All Fired Up | Shadows of the Night | Invincible | Promises In The Dark | Sex As A Weapon | You Better Run | We Belong | Hit Me With Your Best Shot | Love Is A Battlefield | Encore: Let’s Stay Together | Precious Time | Heartbreaker/Ring of Fire