(DTE Energy Theatre, Clarkston, MI - July 20th, 2004)
Opening act, singer/songwriter Garrison Starr is an individualist with a streak of passion. Having spent her life growing up down South, her work mixes up Nashville country appeal with a hearty rock twang. Quietly walking on alongside her guitarist Cary Beare, Starr begins her set with 'Gasoline' before strolling on through 'Underneath the Wheel'.
"Well, how's everybody doin'?," she asks the third-full crowd. "Well, my name's Garrison Starr and I'm expecting you all to buy my new CD Airstreams & Satellites as I'm upgrading my lifestyle soon," she laughs. After some more chat she breaks into 'Like A Drug' which is followed by one of her older tracks, 'Big Sky'. Starr continues to thank the appreciative, if not small audience after each song, before breaking into a story about her grandma back in Mississippi. Sounding like she believes the sentiment contained within each and every song, Starr rocks the house with the set's best song 'Superhero' and brings the whole opening act gig to and end with 'One-Sided'.
Pat Benatar's polished mainstream pop/rock made her one of the more popular female vocalists of the early '80s. Although she came on like an arena rocker with her power chords, tough sexuality, and powerful vocals, her music was straight pop/rock underneath all the bluster.
Taking the stage to the musical strains of 'Treat Me Right', Benatar casually saunters out onstage dressed head to toe in a black kimono-looking outfit. Her longtime musical companion (and husband) Neil Giraldo is himself dressed smartly in black, his once-spiky gray hair now wet and floppy. The high-powered ballad 'We Live For Love' is then followed effortlessly by 'Shadows of the Night', before Benatar takes some time to address the two-thirds full outdoor audience. "Well, hello Detroit," she begins. "How are you all doing out there tonight? As this is a quick tour we're gonna throw in a lot of vintage [her favorite word of the show!] stuff. Is that okay with you guys?" Of course, it was, but instead of something infamously 'vintage' we then get the new track 'Girl' from her latest 2003 release Go!.
Backed by a bassist (Mick Mahan) who seems to wish to be somewhere else, a drummer (Dave Karasony) who seems passionate if not slightly over exuberant to the cause, and a husband on guitar who has an over-exposed tendency to love the sound of his own voice thru a mic, Benatar cranks out such 'vintage' tunes as 'Invincible' ("This song is from one of the worst movies ever made but since 9/11 now always goes out to our brave troops"), and front-of-stage acoustic, stripped-down versions of both 'Love Is A Battlefield' and new track 'Sorry'. 'True Love' ("Back in 1990 we made a blues record and it was the most fun we ever had making a record"), and others such as the anthem tune, 'Hell Is For Children' follow suit.
Singing whilst never really leaving center stage, her body movements nothing more than clenched fists and arm sways, it's greatly evident that the Benatar rocker-mode has been silenced once and for all. Sure her voice is still 100% pitch perfect, but that aggressive, stage-prowling, Grammy Award-winning rock chick has most definitely bid farewell in honor of this new, much calmer version. "We're now gonna play you the first song that we ever recorded in the studio on the very first day we started out," explains Giraldo as they plough into 'Heartbreaker'.
'Thank you so very much and goooooooooodnight" Benatar announces to the crowd, but they didn't have to wait too long to get their 80's groove back on as both the new track 'Go!' and 'Promises In The Dark' are sung. A weirdly motivated, yet sincere plea to not drink and drive is made clear by Giraldo (who's been drinking all night on stage himself!) before Benatar makes the audience aware that if she's gonna sing the next song that THEY would have to sing the third verse for her - as she doesn't like it! They oblige accordingly and so 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot' from her excellent sophomore effort, 1980's Crimes of Passion is next and the whole event is brought to a close with the bouncy 'All Fired Up'.
Reviewed by Russell A. Trunk