Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 4:01 am | Fair 42º


Jeff Moehlis: Pat Benatar Rocks the Ventura County Fair

Pop star — and husband Neil 'Spyder' Giraldo — sings classics from the '80s with plenty of audience participation

Early in Pat Benatar’s rousing performance at the Ventura County Fair on Friday night, during her song “Shadows of the Night,” I had a flashback moment: the image of Benatar as aviatrix, on a mission to fight the Nazis. This, of course, was from her MTV video for the song, parts of which had apparently been burned into my memory from the countless hours I spent as a youth watching what was then a fascinating new channel.

It is fitting that I had such a strong association between Benatar and MTV. Many of her hits were in heavy rotation during the early years of that channel, and as she revealed in her introduction to “You Better Run” later in the concert, that song’s video was the second ever to air on MTV way back in 1981. And since the first was The Buggles’ guitar-free song “Video Killed The Radio Star,” Benatar’s song featured the first ever guitar playing on MTV.

The guitar player then — and now — was Neil “Spyder” Giraldo, who has been married to Benatar for 30 years and definitely still has the goods, whether wailing away on electric guitar, playing acoustic guitar for “You Better Run” at the concert, or on piano. Mick Mahan on bass and Chris Ralles on drums round out the current band.

Benatar — whose vocals were as stellar and powerful as ever — has some true classics in her catalog, including the main set closing “Love Is a Battlefield;” “Invincible,” which she dedicated to members of the armed services and described as “a great song from one of the worst movies ever made,” namely — and I had to look this one up — The Legend of Billie Jean; “We Belong,” for which she had everyone hold up their open cellphones to give a swaying swarm of LEDs; and “Heartbreaker,” which morphed into a 1980s power pop version of “Ring of Fire” then back again.

Before another classic, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” she said “now that I’m 58, I get to make the rules. When I get to the part that I don’t like to sing, you get to sing it.” This ended up being the lines (not written by her or Giraldo) “Before I put another notch in my lipstick case / You better make sure you put me in my place.”

Arguably the most powerful song of the night was “Hell Is For Children,” written by Benatar after she read a shocking exposé on child abuse. She said the band plays the song at every show, and plans to keep doing so until children everywhere are safe. She dedicated the song to Caylee Anthony.

On a lighter note, before the classic “Promises in the Dark,” Benatar told how she slid the song’s lyrics under the door to Giraldo, being a bit shy because they were about him and their fledgling relationship.

I’m not sure how many other people in the audience had MTV flashbacks during the concert, but I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one. What I can say is that many people — from teens to retirees — were singing along for much of the show. It was certainly good music when it came out, and it’s certainly good music now.


All Fired Up
Shadows of the Night
I Want Out
Promises in the Dark
Sex as a Weapon
You Better Run (Acoustic)
We Belong
Hell Is for Children
Hit Me with Your Best Shot
Love Is a Battlefield


Let’s Stay Together
Precious Time
Ring of Fire
Theme from The Godfather

Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site,

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