LIVE: Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo @ The Egg, 6/27/16

Review by Greg Haymes

It’s hard to believe that Pat Benatar made her Albany debut 37 years ago at the long-defunct J.B. Scott’s, where she and her band earned a whopping $125 as the opening act.

On Monday night she returned to town for a completely different show at The Egg’s Hart Theatre. The top ticket price was $99.50… before service charges. Gone was the spandex, although Benatar was decked out in a fashionable black leather jacket. And gone, too, was the band.

Billed as “A Very Intimate Evening with Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo,” it was an 85-minute, stripped-down duo performance with Benatar perched on a stool and singing, while her guitarist-producer-husband strummed his acoustic guitar, played a bit of piano and chimed in with some backing vocals. It was something akin to the “VH1 Storytellers” format, and between tunes they chatted a bit about the songs’ origins or inspirations.

And the twosome got off to a good start with a rousing, slightly bluesy rendition of “All Fired Up,” Giraldo ferociously strumming away at his guitar like Richie Havens at Woodstock.

But there’s a problem with doing a bare-bones acoustic show of their hit songs – too many of the recordings are dependent on Giraldo’s sometimes over-the-top production. (Giraldo freely admitted to the crowd that he over-produced “In These Times.”) So at The Egg, they frequently resorted to a drum machine and pre-recorded instrumental backing tracks to fill out their sound.

At times it sounded a bit cheesy – especially on their cover of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” – but really there was no way around it on such epic hits as “We Live for Love” (and, yes, Benatar can still nail those stratospheric high notes), “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (the big sing-along number of the night), the world music-influenced “We Belong” and the show-closing “Love Is a Battlefield.” The production is simply an integral part of the song.

As the evening progressed we learned that “You Better Run” (Benatar’s Young Rascals cover) was the second song ever played on MTV; that Giraldo played the guitar parts on Rick Springfield’s hit “Jesse’s Girl” (which he then sang a bit of); and that Benatar had considered retiring in 1990 before recording her jump-blues album True Love.

We also learned that they’ve got some pretty wide-ranging musical tastes. For their encore, they dished out her first big hit, “Heartbreaker” – wrapped in a medley with Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and the 13th Floor Elevators’ psychedelic nugget “Don’t Slander Me.” Now that’s eclectic…

Longtime Greater Nippertown favorite Erin Harkes opened the show with a 30-minute, five-song, solo set. Though beset by tuning problems, she had no problem winning over the crowd with stellar songs old (“Murphy”) and new (“Fallout”) and her self-deprecating humor.

Reprinted with permission of The Times Union

All Fired Up
We Live for Love
Promises in the Dark
In These Times
When Doves Cry (Prince)
We Belong
You Better Run (Rascals)
Outlaw Blues
True Love
Jessie’s Girl (abridged) (Rick Springfield)
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Love Is a Battlefield
Hell Is for Children (abridged)
Heartbreaker > Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash) > Don’t Slander Me (13th Floor Elevators)

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