Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo entertained about 1,000 people at the UMB Big Bash at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland on Thursday.
In his remarks before the concert, banker Mariner Kemper said that the annual fundraiser is intended to “give recognition and funding to small nonprofits.” Representatives of Community LINC, a Kansas City charity that assists homeless families, were presented with a check for $25,000. The group will receive an additional $50,000 from UMB Big Bash during the next 18 months.
The event was somewhat misleadingly billed as “a very intimate acoustic evening” with Benatar and Giraldo. The duo regularly employed backing tracks that included electronic elements. While donors near the stage were seated on tony white couches and at candlelit tables, the show was hardly a cozy affair for the hundreds of fans in the balcony of the spacious venue.
Benatar said that “we are celebrating our 37th musical anniversary this year and our 34th wedding anniversary.” The 13-song set list of the 75-minute concert included many of the hits that made her one of the biggest pop and rock stars of the 1980s.
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Without Giraldo re-creating his wonderfully bombastic electric guitar riffs, most of the musical makeovers were enticing. “All Fired Up” was transformed from a hearty rock song into the sort of hopeful folk mantra associated with Richie Havens. “You Better Run” — a song that Benatar noted was the second video played on MTV when the cable network debuted in 1981 — was given an appealingly bluesy interpretation.
Giraldo admitted that he overproduced the studio version of “In These Times.” Shorn of its glossy production, the stark rendition of the song provided the evening’s most potent moments.
Not everything worked. A portion of Giraldo’s lovely piano work on “Promises in the Dark” was drowned out by a pre-recorded guitar. The synthesizers and electric guitars on the backing tracks for “We Live for Love” obscured Benatar’s vocals.
An uncharacteristic huskiness in her voice was the only indication of the severe vocal problems that have recently afflicted Benatar. Her slight rasp added compelling textures to a cover of Prince’s “When Doves Cry.”
Giraldo repeatedly suggested that a hit song should consist of “a great melody, a great lyric and a great treatment.” Thursday’s audience was treated to prime examples of all three components during Thursday’s distinguished but distressingly brief concert.
All Fired Up, We Live for Love, Promises in the Dark, In These Times, When Doves Cry, We Belong, Hell Is for Children, You Better Run, Outlaw Blues, Jessie’s Girl, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Love Is a Battlefield, Heartbreaker/Ring of Fire/Don’t Slander Me