The number one song audience members said they hoped to hear as they waited for the Pat Benatar concert to begin at the Douglas County Fair in Roseburg Wednesday evening was “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”
Benatar did fire that one away, with some help from the audience, and she also sang a lot of other familiar tunes, though she delivered some with variations on the originals.
Benatar was backed up her husband, guitarist and pianist Neil Giraldo, who has been the guitar behind her Grammy-winning, platinum-album-selling voice for 39 years. They’ve been married 36 of those.
“That’s why his hair is white,” she joked to the audience Wednesday.
She recalled when she and Giraldo, who she calls Spyder, put together the band in 1979.
“We had a plan, and then somewhere along the line we fell in love with each other. We started to write songs right away, but it was so awkward to be so young and write personal stuff ... that we made a decision right in the beginning that we would write songs that were observational, which meant we were writing songs about all of you,” she said.
Eventually, they did start to write personal songs, she said. And the first of those was “Promises in the Dark.” They started it Wednesday with Giraldo on piano and Benatar crooning, then switched into rock mode.
Through the evening, Benatar played top hits like “Shadows of the Night” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” just the way fans remembered, but she and Giraldo also stepped out of hard rock mode and into an acoustic performance of two songs, including the 1984 hit “We Belong.” Benatar said the couple has a Duo Show in which they strip songs down bare to the way they were when they were first written.
Giraldo introduced “We Belong” by sharing his formula for a great song. It includes lyrics the listeners feel are written about themselves, a great melody, and a beginning so good that “you know exactly what that song was from the very first note.”
Screams as the song began indicated the audience did, in fact, recognize it from the opening notes.
By the end of the concert, most of the audience was standing up and moving to the beat as Benatar belted out an extended version of her 1979 hit “Heartbreaker,” or as she called it “the song that started it all.” Wednesday night’s version featured a few lines from Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” The audience joined in at one point, singing “heartbreaker, dream maker, love taker, don’t you mess around with me” back to Benatar. An extended kitchen sink guitar solo by Giraldo followed, featuring a few bars of everything from Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” to the theme from the movie Godfather.
Thousands of people attended the concert, despite 90-degree heat and haze from fires raging across the southwestern part of the state.
Mary Newcome, of Roseburg, graduated from Douglas High School in 1983, but she never got to see Benatar in concert back then. Still, she remembers the songs well. And that’s part of what made Wednesday so fun, she said.
“It’s sing along. You can sing with it, and you can understand the words. It just makes you happy,” she said.
She also is impressed that Benatar has been married to Giraldo for so many years.
“That’s another thing I like about her,” she said.
Dianne Carter, of Roseburg, was at the concert with her two sons, who she had been raising back when Benatar was on MTV. She said she last saw Benatar at an Oregon Jam concert in Eugene in the early 1990s.
Carter admires Benatar’s voice.
“How tiny she is, and her powerful voice is amazing,” Carter said.