Benatar, REO Speedwagon deliver good times at the Pavilion

A review of Pat Benatar, REO Speedwagon at the Bank of America Pavilon on August 29, 2010

, Contributing Writer

It may be somewhat counter-intuitive to seek out a crowd in stifling heat such as what blanketed Boston on Sunday night, but it was more than worth it for those that gathered at the Bank of America Pavilion to witness the one-two punch of veteran rockers Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon. And when fans finally left for their showers and air conditioners, their heads were still ringing with the aftereffects of what was simply an epic show.

It’s tough to name a female rock star who is as beloved as Pat Benatar. While delivering emotionally driven songs, she helped pave the way for females in rock (her song “You Better Run” was the second video to air on MTV). Benatar can elicit genuine smiles from a crowd simply with her presence and did just that and more at the Pavilion, proving that she’s still got the stuff to rock at – (shhh!) – 57 years of age.

After opening with “All Fired Up”, “Shadows of the Night” and “If You Think You Know How To Love Me”, Benatar dedicated “Invincible” to America’s troops. And the song was quite the tribute, featuring dazzling fillers from guitarist Neil “Spyder” Giraldo and a funky solo from bassist Mick Mahan. Spyder, Benatar’s husband of 28 years, showed quite a range of talent over the course of the night. Aside from roaring solos in nearly every song, he provided a pleasant piano accompaniment in songs like “Promises In The Dark”, “Hell Is For Children” and the passionate ballad “We Belong”. He writes many of the songs that the Benatar performs and she was sure to give him credit. A humorous moment occurred when the two told the story of how “I Don’t Wanna Be Your Friend” originated; Benatar had an unfortunate dream of Spyder having an affair, and told him that the two would no longer be speaking until he turned the narrative of her dream into a song.

Of course, this queen of classic rock wasn’t going to get away without playing her collection of big hits. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” was one of the night’s highlights. “Any Guitar Hero players out there?” Spyder asked with a grin before launching into the song’s famous intro and continuing, “Take a look at ol’ Spyder and see how to do it.” Next came fan favorite “Love Is A Battlefield”, as the music video of a much younger Pat Benatar flashed on the screen behind the stage. Finally, the band returned for a rousing encore of “Let’s Stay Together” and “Heartbreaker”, which earned one of the night’s loudest cheers.

As fun as Benatar’s set was, REO Speedwagon were the stars of the night. After opening with “Don’t Let Him Go”, REO Speedwagon completely thrilled the crowd with their infamous power ballad “Keep On Loving You”. Between guitarist Dave Amato’s electrifying fillers – which really made the song – and vocalist Kevin Cronin’s uncontainable energy (the guy gives the impression that he could single-handedly keep Red Bull in business), it was impossible for fans to stay in their seats. The energy carried over into “Take It On The Run”, and the band paused halfway through to allow the audience to belt out the chorus. Cronin beared a grin of pure elation as he listened to fans sing his own lyrics back to him before declaring, “It’s a good night to be in Boston, baby!”. The crowd then got a laugh as Cronin introduced REO Speedwagon production manager Michael Victor, clad in a Kobe Bryant jersey – apparently the result of a lost bet. But all was well, as Victor pulled off the Lakers shirt to reveal a Kevin Garnett jersey underneath.

After a brief instrumental, which featured an impressive solo from Amato while Bryan Hitt pounded furiously on the drums behind him, Cronin got serious for a moment, speaking about the band’s participation in the Vietnam War protests and the spirit of individuality that fueled them. “Take that strength within each and every one of us, put it together, and that’s what makes the American spirit!” he declared, right before the band launched into the patriotic “Golden Country”.

REO Speedwagon controlled the tempo between songs perfectly by mixing it up between guitar-driven rock and emotional ballads, which kept things varied and interesting. The band’s most effective move was ceding the spotlight to bassist Bruce Hall between back-to-back classics from 1978’s You Can Tune a Piano but You Can’t Tuna Fish. After fan favorite “Time For Me To Fly”, Cronin paused to address the crowd and introduce Hall, saying, “We are ready to roll out the classic rock heavy artillery”. Backed by nimble fillers from Amato, Hall delivered a rousing rendition of “Back On The Road Again”, while fretting through some pretty impressive bass riffs himself. Lastly came “Roll With The Changes”, and an encore of “Ridin’ The Storm Out.” The latter’s ending was a bit drawn out; the furious crescendo lasted a bit longer than perhaps the audience cared for, but it was minor blemish in an otherwise spectacular set.

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