CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "This song's about being complacent. Don't do that," Pat Benatar growled before letting out a banshee wail in front of the captivated crowd at the Clay Center Sunday night.
Dressed all in black with a red rose in her hair, the diminutive Benatar took the stage with a full, raucous rock band and ripped right into "All Fire Up" and "Invincible."
While time has ravaged the voices of her contemporaries, Benatar's voice is still more than strong enough to stay in tune, trill up and hold those supernatural high notes.
Granted, there's more of a bluesy rasp in her fierce rock howls than there was in her prime. But she could still very well wipe the floor with most modern female singers.
At 59, Pat Benatar is living proof of the Hippocrates aphorism: "Ars longa, vita brevis" -- life is brief, art is long.
A classically trained opera singer, Benatar is best known as the tiny wailing rock singer behind such hits as "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Love is A Battefield," "Heartbreaker,""You Better Run," "Fire and Ice" and "Shadows of the Night."
There's a reason that, despite the undying popularity of her recordings, you don't hear many covers of Benatar's songs by other singers. At least not successful ones. These are simply not songs the average rock or pop voice is capable of tackling.
The mileage on Benatar's pipes was a little more noticeable on the uptempo pop number "Love is a Battlefield," but she had no trouble with the harder rock songs.
Slower tunes brought out the still vibrant beauty of her voice. She sounded particularly lovely on the quiet opening verse of "Promises in the Dark" and the ballad "We Belong."
The major highlight of the evening was the blistering encore combination of Benatar's own "Heartbreaker" with a cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."
Benatar was accompanied by guitarist Neil "Spyder" Giraldo. Given equal billing and spotlight time, Giraldo has been Benatar's bandmate, songwriting partner, producer and husband for the past 30 years. Giraldo also was given several extended guitar solos, prompting one audience member to shout "More Pat, less guitar!"
An acoustic interlude found the couple seated on stools as they bantered with the audience and played a stripped down version of "We Belong." Joking about being old, the couple seems to have gracefully embraced the middle age of their lives as well as that of their musical careers.
That certainly didn't stop Benatar from belting 'em out like a youngster when the music called for it, and it often did.
She had the whole crowd on their feet to sing the chorus of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." It was just one of many standing ovations she received.After all these years, Pat Benatar is still the quintessential rock star.