Two weeks ago I was in NoVa visiting my friends Greg and Katie. It’d been a few years since we’d gotten together; the nominal reason for my trip was to go to a couple of concerts, but really, I mainly wanted to spend time with them and their boys (plus, the timing was excellent on my end). Both shows featured two 80s acts, and even though I’m not overly good at the critiquing thing, I’m filing reports on them. Today, it’s Pat Benatar/Rick Springfield up for examination.
We’ll start with the good half. I’ve not written much at all about Benatar in this space to date, but it might well be the case that from 80 to 82 she was my overall favorite rock act. So many of the singles from her first three albums struck me just the right way during my late high school years, and I just plain adore the chorus of “Shadows of the Night.” My interest in her tailed off a bit during college, but I generally remained a fan.
I’d not seen her live before, and she did a more than creditable job. Obviously her voice doesn’t have the range it did and isn’t as supple as it was during her commercial peak, but it’s clear that she’s taken care of it. I was impressed that she nailed all the high notes in the chorus to “We Live for Love,” but later in the show she did take some things down an octave. As one would expect, she largely focused on big hits. At one point, she made reference to “the holy fourteen,” a/k/a the songs that fans expect to hear at a PB show. I’d venture to say she sang 9 or 10 of them—definitely missing were “Fire and Ice,” “Shadows of the Night,” and “Treat Me Right,” and I would have loved also to have heard “Little Too Late” and “Le Bel Age.” Husband Neil Giraldo—who received dual billing with Benatar—was masterful (it was cute to hear her call him “Spyder,” and him call her “Patty Mae”), the bass player totally nailed it, and while the drummer is no Myron Grombacher, he was mighty fine. The set was maybe just a tiny bit on the short side, but the mashup of other songs with “Heartbreaker” in the encore was good fun. For the curious, here’s the set list. My insta-score of the performance was 8.5/10, which after further reflection is fair.
Rick Springfield’s opening set, on the other hand, left much to be desired. Greg and I both had the feeling that he mailed several songs in; oddly, he regularly pulled away from the mic mid-phrase (the worst of this sort of thing occurred on the second song, “I’ve Done Everything for You”—I just don’t think he interested in doing it). He’s recorded a couple of albums in the last two years, and understandably he wanted to feature some tracks from them, but he (jokingly?) badgered fans when they appeared to be hitting the restroom when a newer song was starting. Springfield’s birthday comes up in a few weeks, and he had the crowd sing to him for it. About mid-show he did a medley of mostly minor 80s hits. This was overall a good choice, as songs like “Bop ‘Til You Drop” and “Don’t Walk Away” feel pretty slight now. I’ll give him credit for going out into the crowd a couple of times, though, when it was time for “Don’t Talk to Strangers” and “Human Touch.” On the former, he passed a second mic around and members of the audience sang the title phrase (usually pretty badly) over and again for maybe close to five minutes. The backup band was solid, also covering on vocals when RS took a line or phrase off. Songs I wish he’d played: “Celebrate Youth” and “Love Somebody”—either would have been preferable to “Affair of the Heart” or a cover of “Wild Thing” (Troggs, not Tone Loc). Set list here. I’ll stick with the initial score of 4.5/10—amusing and crowd-pleasing in certain respects but disappointing in plenty of others.
The venue was the theater at the MGM National Harbor, a casino complex on the Maryland side of the Potomac. It’s a multipurpose room, not overly intimate. We sat in the front row of the balcony, which was farther away than I might have expected, though screens on either side of the stage helped. The acoustics were okay but nothing special.
As critical as I’m being, I’m definitely glad I went. The following night, we went to another show, in a different spot—expect a review on Thursday!
We’ll wrap up today with a song from each from Benatar and Springfield, tunes I was very glad to hear live.