The 70’s and 80’s saw a rise of women in rock and roll. At the turn of the decade, when the likes of Patti Smith, The Wilson sisters, Stevie Nicks and Joan Jett were reigning supreme, another young gun was about to become another one of the most influential women in Rock and Roll history. With her first album, In the Heat of the Night (1979), Pat Benatar was about to embark on a career that led to 4 Grammys, years of success and a loving marriage to her guitarist, Neil Giraldo.
Men and women, young and old, filled the seats of the Balboa Theatre Tuesday night to be a part of the 35th anniversary tour. While everyone was brimming with excitement, some showed up donned in getups from popular Benatar music videos. As the chimes rang for everyone to take their seat, the anticipation was heavy. The lights dropped and a video played on the screen behind, with Benatar and Giraldo narrating their personal experiences that brought them together. After the 4.5 minute video, the band emerged and began their performance.
The set includes something for everyone: soft ballads, fist pumping rock songs, and everything in between. Before many songs, Benatar or Giraldo explain a little background information of the piece or the time period. Benatar speaks about how “You Better Run” was the second song premiered on MTV (only after “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles). A high point of the night came with back to back performances of bigger hits “Hit Me with your Best Shot” and “Love is a Battlefield,” the latter of which won her a Grammy in 1983. At this point, most of the crowd was up and dancing at their seat. They wouldn’t sit until the end of the night.
Giraldo offers impressive musical talent on both the guitar and piano, which allows them to alternate between the arena rock hits and the slower ballads. But all eyes are on Benatar, who walks a line of grace and Rock and Roll, with a voice that hasn’t aged a day. She’ll give a snarl to the audience, only for that to be replaced by a gleaming ear to ear smile. The dynamic between the two is of a loving couple. Benatar cozies up to Giraldo while he solos and gives eyes of admiration throughout the night. Their banter is playful, as they go back and forth pinning which of the two is the un-fun half.
Giraldo, at one point, goes into a little more of his story, about how he had a hand in many of the most popular songs in the past 3 decades. He then begins to play and sing Rick Springfield hit, “Jesse’s Girl,” as the theatre erupts in the screams of the women, and some men, in attendance.
By the end of the night, I too, admittedly, was on my feet and dancing along. The night ended with one of her first hits, “Heartbreaker,” which had a good lot of the audience forgetting their seats and running to the front of the stage. Halfway through the song, they made an unexpected switch to Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” a beautiful tribute from one music legend to another.