In the late 1970s, Pat Benatar burned her way through the American rock charts and her fiery embers supplied the kindling for those who followed. An early pioneer, Benatar proved that female-fronted rock bands could fill stadiums and reach the top of the charts. She then made a seamless transition from the late ‘70s guitar-laden arena rock sound to the made-for-MTV video pop (while still retaining her rockin’ roots). Benatar and her musical partner/husband/guitarist Neil Giraldo brought their Funtastic Tour to The Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre on Monday, August 28, 2023. As advertised, we had a Funtastic time at this sold-out show!
It wasn’t long before the packed Garden crowd was “All Fired Up.” Benatar & Giraldo mixed in chart-toppers (drawing from their 19 top 40 hits) with some deeper cuts from their massive catalog. Giraldo took to the piano while Benatar crooned a soulful “We Belong.” At Age 70, her voice still packed a punch. The band’s sound, with only a guitar, bass, and drums to support Benatar’s beaming vocals, filled the night air.
After an early warm-up of rockin’ power ballads, Benatar & Giraldo launched a non-stop flurry of hits. We were quickly reminded why Benatar owned the rock and pop music charts for several decades. Her stories, interspersed between songs, was one of my favorite parts of the evening. She remembered that her video “You Better Run” was the second video MTV played when they launched their cable television music channel in August of 1981 (the first was aptly titled “Video Killed The Radio Star” by the Buggles). To translate for the young’uns out there, that’s like the second TikTok to ever go viral. In August of 1981, MTV only aired in New Jersey, but it soon reshaped the music industry and launched all across America. I missed the MTV music craze since I spent much of the ‘80s (and most of the ‘90s) overseas with the military. Nevertheless, thanks to devoted fans who shipped VHS copies to Korea, I observed how music videos influenced popular music in the 1980s. Mostly, I listened to Benatar & Giraldo’s music the old-fashioned way.
Okay, history class is dismissed. Let’s get back to the show.
They thrilled us with familiar favorites, including “Invincible,” “Shadows of the Night,” and a haunting version of “Hell is for Children.” They ended with “Love is a Battlefield.” For the encore the crew returned for a pounding rendition of The Beatles “Helter Skelter” (Benatar recorded her version in 1981,) followed by 1993’s “Everybody Lay Down.” For the grand finale they reached back to 1979 for their first hit, “Heartbreaker.” They interpolated the song with Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” They closed the show with Giraldo, who Benatar referred to as Spyder, shredding his guitar, Chris Ralles lighting up his drum kit, and Mick Mahan laying down the bass tracks.
Don’t let the odometer fool you, Benatar and Giraldo still log plenty of miles performing at sold-out shows in large arenas across the globe. We were quite fortunate to have them play in our intimate garden. Their flame of musical passion still burns. As predicted, they didn’t play their iconic “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” since they decided last year that the gun violence epidemic makes it hard for them to sing those words night after night. They weren’t stingy on their other hits, though, thrilling us with their 15-song set.
Chris Trapper opened the evening with a six-song set of amusing tunes and self-effacing stories. He started us off with “Into The Bright Lights.” He told us his song “This Time” ended up on the soundtrack for the movie August Rush and earned a Grammy nomination. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the actor who recorded the single, made it a hit, earning him a gold record. Trapper quipped, his own version was certified Tinfoil. When he played it for us, it still shined.
Trapper ended his set with The Push Stars “Keg On My Coffin,” a catchy, albeit dark diddy by the alt-pop band that Trapper formed in Boston. The Push Stars enjoyed a modicum of commercial success in the ‘90s before going on hiatus while Trapper hit the road as a soloist. I’d like to catch him again in a small, intimate, listening room. His extensive catalog of alt-folk songs mixed with his wry sense of humor would make for an entertaining evening.
Listening to Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees Benatar & Giraldo under cloudless skies made for a glorious evening. As always, the Amphitheatre sound was perfect!
Who: Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo w/ Chris Trapper
What: Funtastic Tour
Where: Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
When: Monday, August 28, 2023