the loud bassoon concert scene

Pat Benatar @ Westport Playhouse, St. Louis, USA
27 June 1999

The Loud Bassoon's oft-quoted couple "John & Jane Jackass" might have lucked out and seen this amazingly underpromoted show in the paper, thought to themselves "Ha ha, Pat Benatar!," vainly tried to get five words right to "Heartbreaker," and then turned on the TV to scoff along to "Where Are They Now?."

Good, glad these idiots didn't show up for this set, and if they had, they still wouldn't have realized what had hit 'em. Fortunately for us, we walked up the night of to buy tix … the "highlight" of which was an oddball and often-awkward conversation between my companion and some moron who got "dragged along" that night, whose only concern was if Pat was still "hot." Back to your cubicle, sucker.

Celebrating the 20th anniversary since the release of 1979's In the Heat of the Night, Pat and her husband/songwriter/guitarist extraordinare Neil "Spyder" Geraldo have organized a crack band, and have hit the road for a small summer tour in preparation for an anticipated 56-song box set due out in April.

Yes, first off, Pat is still "hot," but more importantly, the chops and the lungs are all still there, and nary a beat has been skipped.

I was an unabashed and unapologetic fan as a kid, but lost interest after 1990s blues/jazz exploration True Love hit the shelves (and VH-1). Besides, I was in college, and listened to a mandatory regiment of Pavement and Matthew Sweet (what can I say … "they" handed it to me my first day of school, and mocked me mercilessly until I said I liked Primus).

Meanwhile the Benatars were hiding out, sizzling slow and raising a family. Clearly they won that round, but everybody won the night of the show.

"A Little Too Late" and "La Bel Age" (you remember the heavily voiced-over video complete with Richard Belzer … right? RIGHT?) absent from the set, the nitpicking stops there as everything else you'd want to hear was played in due fashion. "Treat Me Right," an apropos opener which also opened sophomore album Crimes of Passion, was a pretty good indication of what was to be expected.

Throughout the evening, keys were often lowered a notch, but that actually gets big props in my book, as it keeps things fresh for my pitch-driven hearing system, and more off gets to show off an ease in which the band, most notably Geraldo, could adapt and change.

A feeling of "warm-up" tour sort of permeated the set, as words were often exchanged between musicians before songs, and a few references were made to that they'd been only on the road for two weeks. Road rust was nary to be seen, however, and it was often evident that playing live was 'fresh' to them once again – the addition of younger back-up musicians, clearing "fans" in their own right, had to give the Benatar/Geraldo duo an extra boost.

Extra props to Pat's female keyboardist, who most likely got the job in part to the fact she could hit Pat's harmonies dead on and complemented everything nicely. A shame her keyboard was out of the mix for most of the evening, but blame that on the rotating stage, which was so small to begin with, that the mix engineer could only fiddle with the mixing board at certain times.

In turn, the audience got a very up close and intimate show … perhaps too intimate, thanks to the occasional PB die-hard who felt compelled to give Pat a copy of their CD or personally hand a band member a note.

Even so, the band gets major bonus points for being very fan-friendly and seemingly down to earth. Also, bigger points to Neil Geraldo, whose lack of ego belies the fact that he is truly a remarkable and completely underrated guitarist – the highlight here being his solo during the surprisingly scorching bluesfest that was the title track to True Love.

Normally I'd see it as annoying, but his taking full advantage of his wireless and sitting down with the audience during his solo was geniunely jawdropping.

Highlights included "Shadows of the Night" and "Wuthering Heights," Pat's cover of the Kate Bush tune … apparently this is the first tour she's ever played it live, so kudos. "Invincible", another favorite, fell a bit flat, probably because this song is as 80s-slickly-overproduced as Pat ever got.

The set continued with a great flow, two encores, and you're outta there, spilling way past two hours, and completely wiping away any trace of the miserable Dave Matthew clones that pandered their way to an audience that probably hasn't bought much music since Pat left the scene.

Here's a hint boys: it's been done. Go get some frat gigs andleave us the hell alone. As for Pat and company, I can, in all "new honesty," say this is one of the best live shows I've ever seen; here's to hopin' that the comeback is truly underway.

Treat Me Right
I Need a Lover
You Better Run
My Clone Sleeps Alone
One Love
We Live for Love
Get Nervous (Anxiety)
Only You
Precious Time
Shadows of the Night
Somebody's Baby
We Belong
Wuthering Heights
True Love
Love is a Battlefield
Hell is for Children
- - -
Promises in the Dark
- - -
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
All Fired Up

Review by Bradley A. Milton