Pat Benatar performed in the round on a revolving stage at the New Melody Fair Theater on Friday, July 18, 2003, at Wurlitzer Park in North Tonawanda, New York. There wasn't a bum seat in the venue as the circular stage shifted slowly in either direction, alternating throughout the concert.
Benatar's husband, guitarist Neil Geraldo, is her musical director. The band comprises Billy Ashbaugh on drums, Mick Mahan on bass guitar, and Cindy O'Connor on keyboards. The round stage required Pat and crew to walk down an aisle to reach the stage.
The band began with a strong rocker, "Disconnected". Geraldo's lead guitar intro kicked off "Shadows Of The Night". Benatar remarked, "Now we're going around in a circle, and I just know I'm going to get nauseous" .
"Girl", a new song from her forthcoming disc, was dedicated by Benatar to the women in the audience, "For all of my sisters out there". Geraldo's melodic guitar lines complimented the tough beat laid down by Ashbaugh. Geraldo's wawa bar coda produced cheers and applause when the group finished the new tune.
Benatar stated that performing "Invincible" before an audience now took on a stronger meaning for her post 9-1-1. This particular number juiced up the band's energy on stage. Mahan contributed a choice bass solo, as the audio impact increased. Geraldo's stinging lead guitar solo during the crescendo drove the crowd wild with excitement.
A major highlight of the evening was their husband and wife acoustic duet on "Brave", another new track from Go. Benatar and Geraldo sat on stools and harmonized on an outstanding ballad version. "Love Is A Battlefield" had been rearranged for an unplugged performance. Benatar's crisp vocals carried the weight of the song for a great take.
Geraldo announced, "For those of you from when we first started, we're gonna do the first song we ever recorded". The band immediately dove into a fierce rendition of "Heartbreaker". Geraldo was possessed on guitar, and Ashbaugh assaulted his drum kit. For dramatic effect, Geraldo held his guitar up at an angle and jammed on the crescendo, generating a standing ovation on cue for their encore exit.
The band returned down the aisle to the circular stage for their anticipated encore and played "Go", the title track from her new album. The cool rocker featured heavy drums and frenetic rhythm guitar chords, culminating in a big finish on stage.
Geraldo polled the audience as to whether they wanted, "The quiet version or the loud version", of the politically incorrect 1980 hit single, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot". The audience sprang to their feet and sang along on the chorus. Benatar belted out, "You rock!", in appreciation of their generous participation.
For her final encore, "All Fired Up" spotlighted an extended instrumental intro. Benatar's lead vocals were supported by a harmony trio on the melodic rocker. At the climax, Benatar wiped the guitar strings on her husband's guitar neck for maximum effect. Geraldo treated the fans by tossing guitar picks into the audience.
Mary Jo Marrin, 30, drove in from Rochester to attend the concert. She had never seen Benatar live on stage before and thought she was excellent. "Pat sounds great", was Marrin's endorsement. Her favorite song of the evening was "Invincible". Marrin attended the Wurlitzer Park performance with two friends in tow.
North Tonawanda setlist: Disconnected * We Live For Love * Shadows Of The Night * Girl * Invincible (Theme from The Legend of Billie Jean) * Brave * Love Is A Battlefield * True Love * Hell Is For Children * Heartbreaker * Encore: Go * Promises In The Dark * Hit Me With Your Best Shot * All Fired Up
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with her best shot
Pat Benatar rocks in the round
by Timothy Tilghman