Illustration and Review by Rick Imamoto - Universal City, California
(Huntington Beach News)

A few years ago, the name Pat Benatar brought to mind images of a woman dressed in miniskirts and skin tight pantsuits belting out songs that told us how her man had done her wrong. Songs like "Heartbreaker" and "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" strongly reinforced that image. But now, three years after the birth of her and husband/guitarist Neil Geraldo's first child, we now see a completely different persona. Yes, the hard edged operatic voice that spans four and a half octaves is still intact, but the mascara, miniskirts and high heels are all history.

Benatar's December 10 performance at the Universal Amphitheatre was her first Southern California appearance in over three years. Armed with a more naturalized look, she led off her set with "We Live For Love" and 1981's top ten hit, "Fire and Ice." Well mixed throughout the set were other hits from her platinum selling past and songs from her latest album, "Wide Awake In Dreamland."

Two songs from "Dreamland" stood out among the rest. The first instance being "All Fired Up," a real barnburner of a rocker that had the Amphitheatre crowd jumping out of its seats. Before performing the other new standout cut, "Too Long A Soldier," Benatar spoke of the perils of war and expanded on a few political points. Serving as an example of Benatar's increased emotional awareness, "Soldier" is an exceptional tale of a person (or people) tired of the ugliness and pain brought on by warfare and conflict.

Benatar's change in image has caused friction between the singer and executives at Chrysalis Records (her recording label).

In her mind, she is no longer the "little sexpot" who sings songs that express feelings of anger and resentment. Benatar is an evolving artist expanding her horizons both politically and emotionally. She may never have the lyrical expression of, say, a Dylan or Springsteen, but her concern seems to real and genuine. And in the world we live in, I'd rather listen to an honest rock and roll singer than some phony political type.


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