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Pat Benatar represents LI Hall of Fame in homecoming show

 

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo during a benefit show in Farmingville on July 23. The duo broke out cover songs and reworked versions of their own hits at the 7,000-capacity Catholic Health Ampitheater. JULIA PORTNOY/THE STATESMAN

Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo returned to Benatar’s native Long Island for a performance at the Catholic Health Amphitheater in Farmingville on July 23. The duo is celebrating their 44th year as a songwriting team (and 41st wedding anniversary), and their live show has seemingly not lost a step since their heyday in the 1980s.

A career that long means Benatar’s discography contains 11 studio albums. Somehow, she managed to pack selections from 10 of those records into the 16-song, 90-minute set. The concert included songs dating back to 1979 and as recent as 2003: a 24-year body of work from which to draw. 

The show was the second of Benatar’s summer tour and a benefit concert for the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame (LIMEHOF), of which Benatar is a member. The Stony Brook-based museum announced the launch of its new “Health and Harmony” partnership with Catholic Health before the show. 

Taking the stage to the uptempo “All Fired Up,” Benatar busted through “Sex as a Weapon” and “We Live For Love” before coming up for air. 

Even if Benatar can’t quite hit all of the high notes that her older songs demand, her powerful vocals still command the gravitas of a true rock legend. Her age certainly did not hurt her ethos with the crowd either, who loudly applauded Benatar’s casual reminder that she had turned 70 earlier this year.

Accordingly, the band provided many spots for Benatar to put her vocal prowess on display. She belted out the chorus of “Invincible” with all the intensity the track deserves. And she can still deliver the titular phrase of “You Better Run” with as much of a sneer in her voice as always.

Benatar declared that “anything could happen” during the second show of the tour, a time when she and her bandmates were still getting into gear. She delivered on that promise with reworked versions of some old favorites. Benatar and Giraldo began “We Belong” on piano before transitioning into the song’s more familiar acoustic guitar strums. Drummer Chris Ralles put down his sticks to allow for a stripped-back version of “Shadows Of The Night,” which quickly turned into the loudest singalong of the show.

There were still plenty of opportunities for Giraldo to show off his guitar chops, with the breakdown of “Hell Is For Children” among the night’s most intense moments. For the band’s encore, Giraldo jokingly introduced a “mellow” song before ripping into the frenzied intro of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”

The show concluded with “Heartbreaker,” Benatar’s breakout single from 1979. The band replaced the song’s bridge with a short cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” before allowing Giraldo to close out the night with an extended guitar solo that seemed to echo through the arena even after he left the stage. 

“Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” perhaps Benatar’s best-known song, is still absent from her setlists because of possible associations with gun violence.

Taylor Dane, an ‘80s dance artist and fellow LIMEHOF member, served as the opening act for the night. Dane’s set saw her sprinting around the amphitheater floor and getting a thunderous response from the crowd for her 1988 hit “Tell It to My Heart.”

Taylor Dane walks through the crowd while performing in Farmingville on Sunday. Dane played seven songs as Benatar and Giraldo’s opening act JENNIFER PORTNOY/THE STATESMAN

Benatar and Giraldo still maintain a demanding tour schedule. This show was their 18th performance of 2023 and they have 32 more shows scheduled for the rest of the year. Those performances will include an upcoming tour as an opening act for P!nk, with stops at SoFi Stadium and Wrigley Field. 

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