Pat Benatar knows how to please her fans.
During a fast-moving, 90-minute set at the House of Blues in Anaheim on Thursday night, the singer and her solid three-man band (featuring her talented guitar-wielding husband Neil Giraldo) drew cheers and audience sing-along choruses with hits such as “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and a cover of John Mellencamp’s “I Need a Lover.”
The last time I caught Benatar, it was two years ago (July 14, 2005 to be exact) at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa and her like-minded headlining appearance easily outdistanced sets by Berlin and the Motels that night.
Here in the intimate confines of the Mouse House, the 54-year-old singer was able to intersperse her nostalgic approach with acoustic-flavored material to provide a more wide-ranging sampling of material from throughout her 28-year recording career.
So while the crowd couldn’t get enough of the hard-rocking likes of her opener “All Fired Up,” the decidedly-dated “Heartbreaker” and night-ending “Love is a Battlefield,” there were definite moments when Benatar showcased her real ability to explore the blues, folk-rock and even prog rock styles.
Of the big hits she played, the steely rocker “Promises in the Dark,” timeless message-driven “Hell is for Children” and reworked “Invincible” soared best. Both Benatar and Giraldo excel in playing blues-rock and “True Love” allowed them to share that passion, with the adoring audience eager to come along on the ride.
But it was the performance of several songs from her overlooked early ‘90s album “Gravity’s Rainbow” that found Benatar venturing into territory furthest outside of the Arena rock sound where she is best know. “Disconnected,” written in the wake of the Los Angeles riots, was delivered in a blistering alt rock style that defied the cliché sound of some of her late 70s-early 80s material while continuing to display Benatar’s high octave vocals.
And in a similar approach rework some of her more dated material; “We Live for Love” was reworked in an acoustic, folk-rock vein.
While Benatar will never be able to escape the polished rock sound that produced a number of mainstream hits, there is no doubt she and her band deliver the nostalgic goods with an authenticity and passion equal to the thrill her performance gives time machine-bound fans.
Opener Lennon Murphy (better known as Lennon) performed a 30-minute set of keyboard-anchored material that explores that area somehow home to Evanescence, Nine Inch Nails and Alanis Morissette. Although her piano playing was not especially impressive and her voice only had limited range, there was an effective melancholy presence to her solo set that worked over the course of six songs.