Pat Benatar and Neil “Spyder” Giraldo enjoyed a sort-of-homecoming Friday night at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown.
Giraldo—whose guitar hooks and memorable melodies grace all the superstar singer’s albums—was raised in Cleveland.
The husband-and-wife team played up the hometown connection on August 16th, bringing fans back in time with a set that leaned heavy on Benatar’s biggest hits. Performing on an uncluttered stage with only bassist Mick Mahan and drummer Chris Ralles augmenting Giraldo’s guitar (and occasional keys), the couple offered record-accurate reproductions of some songs and mean, raucous garage-band versions of others. If the show proved anything, it’s that the smoky red-head from Brooklyn boasts more chart-toppers than you remember, and can still knock ‘em out live in concert.
Benatar belted from a microphone at center stage on 1988 rocker “All Fired Up” while Giraldo cranked power chords on his trusty red Guild Starfire III and fielded background vocals. 1985’s “Invincible” roused the Covelli crowd further, while 1979 backtrack “So Sincere” returned listeners to the couple’s debut album on Chrysalis.
“We’re gonna sit down now…’cuz we’re old!” Giraldo joked while sipping bottled water on a barstool.
The slick-haired, prodigiously-tattooed six-stringer regaled the audience with his Northeast Ohio upbringing, early club gigs in Painesville, and late-seventies trip to New York to join Rick Derringer’s band. The high-profile job eventually led to session work with ambitious, operatic banker / waitress-turned-rocker Benatar. And the rest, as they say, is history.
“We’re all family, and I’d like to invite you into our living room,” beamed Giraldo.
“I say that every night, but here in Ohio I can actually mean it, because I’ve got family here!”
Benatar explained that the 1981 smash “Promises in the Dark” marked the first time she and Giraldo wrote a tune based on their own relationship instead of other people’s problems and newspaper headlines. The song found the guitar player tinkling the intro on grand piano before taking up his Guild again for the hard-charging staccato riff. Benatar brought country songstress Brynn Marie—who opened the show—back for tripartite harmony vocals on the acoustic-tinged Tropico gem “We Belong.” Then came the show’s climax: a three-part Crimes of Passion medley featuring 1980 “Hell is for Children,” “You Better Run,” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”
Propelled by Mahan’s five-string bass, “Love is a Battlefield” closed the main set and left fans on their feet. But the First Lady (and guitarist) of MTV returned with “Everybody Lay Down” (from 1993’s Gravity’s Rainbow”) and “Let’s Stay Together” (from 1988’s Wide Awake in Dreamland). The grand finale consisted of an incendiary “Heartbreaker,” which Giraldo spiced up with bits of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”
Brynn Marie impressed with her half-hour warm-up, given the Nashville songbird’s stripped-down songs consisted only of her voice and Josh Roberts on acoustic guitar. Marie’s rich pipes recalled Melissa Etheridge in some spots and Janis Joplin in others, and infused gems like “Just Like That” and “Love Is Gonna Find You” with just the right balance of soul and sass. “All I Ever Did Was Love You,” “Love She Deserves,” and the single “I’m Sorry” were other standouts.