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Gig Review: Pat Benatar and Cheap Trick Rock the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles

Renowned American rock singer Pat Benatar embarked on a summer tour with Cheap Trick a few weeks ago, landing at the Greek Theatre on June 8.

People paid good money for tickets, so expectations were high. And with these artists having been around for so many years, there was a degree of skepticism to go with all the excitement of witnessing such classic music in the glorious setting of the Greek, up on a hill in Griffith Park, providing a great view of the Hollywood Hills and LA to people in the higher seats.

Cheap Trick took the stage at 7:30 p.m. and thrilled the crowd with a nonstop, 17-song set. Compared to their 2011 Dream Police tour, this was a much more stripped-down, bare-bones stage production, and the focus was squarely on the musicianship of the four guys on stage.

That said, guitarist Rick Nielsen and vocalist Robin Zander weren't short on showmanship. Nielsen constantly interacted with the crowd, throwing picks to people near and far from the stage, at one point even giving out a vinyl record sleeve. The band looked primed for the occasion, in a tight groove with each song they played. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, and they successfully transferred that emotion to the audience.

Nielsen’s guitar playing was exemplary, and he found the perfect balance between rocking out and playing his parts exactly like the records. It wasn’t over-the-top in any way. Perhaps Yngwie Malmsteen should take a lesson or two. Besides, this Cheap Trick set had all the musical elements that usually decorate their shows, with Nielsen’s variety of guitars, including the famous five-neck model he brought out for the final song, "Tonight."

Zander played rhythm guitar for a few songs, and bassist Tom Petersson switched between bass and guitar. The staple hits were all there, blended in nicely with the deeper cuts. The vocalist is usually the weak link in older bands, but Zander showed incredible range, especially on the slower, softer tunes. Even at their age, Cheap Trick put on a rocking show.

Set List:

  • 01. Hello There
  • 02. Elo Kiddies
  • 03. On Top of the World
  • 04. I Can't Take It
  • 05. Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
  • 06. That 70s Song (In The Street) (Big Star cover)
  • 07. Stop This Game
  • 08. Heaven Tonight
  • 09. I Want You to Want Me
  • 10. Can't Hold On
  • 11. The House Is Rockin' (With Domestic Problems)
  • 12. I Know What I Want
  • 13. Sick Man of Europe
  • 14. Surrender
  • 15. California Man (The Move cover)
  • 16. Dream Police
  • 17. Goodnight

Cheap Trick left the stage at 8.45 p.m. After a 20-minute intermission, Benatar, her husband and guitarist Neil Giraldo, bassist Mick Mahan and drummer Chris Ralles hit the stage amid rapturous applause.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Benatar and wasn’t anticipating them matching or outshining Cheap Trick. But I'm glad to be proved wrong; they won over the entire theater with musicianship that came across as a lot more rocking than what you’d imagine upon listening to Benatar's albums.

Despite being on the wrong side of 60, Benatar’s vocal delivery was spellbinding. In Giraldo she has the perfect accomplice to her heartfelt, soulful voice. The dude played that guitar with such aplomb and sounded pristine yet heavy; it's no wonder he has influenced even those who play a much heavier variety of rock music, including Marty Friedman. He locked in with the rhythm section and provided the means for Benatar to fully express herself.

She had a very graceful persona at all times, including the few occasions during which she spoke to the audience. Benatar’s music is by no means the heaviest or the most brutal thing you’ll hear, but it has a mesmerizing quality that resonates deep into the audience, plus an impact that’s as powerful as anything else out there.

All in all, it’s safe to say both bands still have it in them to rock audiences with high-quality live musicianship. There are so many old bands out there doing the live gigs merely as a money grab and not putting much of an effort toward giving a good show. Thankfully, Benatar and Cheap Trick are doing it in earnest.

Set List:

01. All Fired Up
02. Invincible
03. So Sincere
04. Go
05. Promises in the Dark
06. We Belong
07. Hell Is for Children
08. You Better Run
09. Hit Me with Your Best Shot
10. Love Is a Battlefield
11. Let’s Stay Together
12. Heartbreaker/Ring of Fire

Photos: Andrew Bansal

Andrew Bansal is a writer who has been running his own website, Metal Assault, since early 2010, and has been prolific in covering the hard rock and heavy metal scene by posting interviews, news, reviews and pictures on his website — with the help of a small group of people. He briefly moved away from the Los Angeles scene and explored metal in India, but he is now back in LA continuing from where he left off.

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