It was a hot August night in Costa Mesa for one of the final shows of the 2022 Pacific Amphitheatre Summer Concert Series. Temperatures were still in the 90s at 7 p.m., which only helped to set the mood for what would be a night of hot licks and even hotter rock music.
Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo have had a long and successful career, and have managed to stay together as a couple; not an easy task in the crazy world of entertainment. They are set to be inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this November, where they’ll be joining their opening act Ann Wilson, who was inducted into the Hall in 2013 for her tenure in the classic rock band Heart.
Ann Wilson and her band kicked off the show with “Even It Up” off the 1980 Heart album, “Bébé le Strange.” It was one of the first music videos I remember seeing on MTV and it has that classic line, “A good man pays his debt, but you ain’t paid yours yet.” The audience reaction was an enthusiastic roar of applause. Wilson introduced her next song as one she wrote during the lockdown called “Black Wing,” a dark and powerful ballad featuring a beautiful flute solo by Wilson, with blistering guitar solos from both her guitarists.
Speaking of Wilson’s band, she called them The Amazing Dawgs and they were, Tom Bukovac on guitar, Tony Lucido playing bass, Sean T. Lane on drums, and Paul Moak on guitar and keyboards. They were a tight band and able to play all the Heart classics perfectly. The acoustic guitar intro to “Crazy on You” was instantly recognizable and had the crowd on its feet, as they were every time a Heart song was played.
Wilson showed her talent and versatility all night, but never more so than when she sang The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me.” The monster FM radio hit “Barracuda” sounded great and spot on as did “Straight On,” which they smoothly segued into David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” Wilson finished her set with a hard rocking version of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” which totally allowed her and her band to show off all of their chops and finish with a climactic ending.
Benatar, Giraldo, and their band kicked off their set with the hard-rocking Sweet cover “No You Don’t” from their 1979 debut album “In the Heat of The Night.” “I Need a Lover” followed and it has always been one of my favorites since John Mellencamp originally released it.
After getting the crowd “All Fired Up” with the song of the same name, they changed things up a little with Benatar singing a stripped-down version of “Shadows of The Night” accompanied by Giraldo on 12-string acoustic guitar. Keeping things stripped down and simple, Benatar belted out a stirring rendition of the ballad “We Belong” with Giraldo playing the grand piano. Notable hits that followed were “Promises in The Dark,” “Hell is For Children,” and “Love is a Battlefield.”
Giraldo asked the crowd if they’d like to hear a nice quiet, slow song, or something fast and loud. The crowd responded with a large cheer! “They always choose fast and loud,” he remarked, “Ok, fast and loud it is!” Pulling out all the stops, they played an ass-kicking cover of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”
Closing the night out with the song that started it all was 1979’s “Heartbreaker,” which they mashed up with Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” bringing it back around to the ending of “Heartbreaker.” Holding hands, they took a bow and thanked the crowd together.
One thing you can say about the people who come to The Pacific Amphitheatre is that they are always ready to have a good time; singing and dancing in the aisles, and ready to celebrate the music of the artists that we are all there to see. Tonight, everyone was in the mood for some hard-rocking female-fronted classic rock and not a soul left disappointed.