The opening show of Blondie, Pat Benatar, and the Donnas’ Call Me Invincible Tour Tuesday night in Saratoga, CA, was like a riot — a nicely organized riot with a seating chart, vigilant security, and lots of Chardonnay.
The sold out amphitheater was packed with the 50-something punks and new wavers of yesteryear. Rockers-turned-soccer moms came in droves, toting their Tommy Bahama-ed husbands who seemed to keep a close eye on the beer vendors.
The show’s momentum took a while to set in motion. While the Donnas played a loud, tight, 30-minute set, the majority of the crowd still hadn’t been to their seats, choosing instead to mill around the winery, schmooze, sip beverages, and check Blackberries by the concession stands.
But most everybody sat down once Blondie hit the stage. And when Deborah Harry emerged sipping a cup of tea, wearing a red slip dress with a red cape, there was a moment of chaotic silence, low whispers filling the amphitheatre like girls gossiping at the prom. The frenzied (and boozy) audience had to take her in for a second.
Harry seemed shy — distant, even — as the band (Clem Burke on drums, Leigh Foxx on bass, Chris Stein on guitar, Paul Carbonara on guitar, and Matt Katz-Bohen on keys) covered many of their decade-spanning hits without so much as a word from the quiet frontwoman. Occasionally strutting to the side of the stage to let the band play, Harry mostly danced by herself in the corner. But it was during “Maria” when she seemed to realize that she was at a concert, of which she was the star, moving center stage to bask in the fans’ praise.
And then her performance took shape. Audience members stood up for “Tide is High,” “Rapture,” and “Heart of Glass” — and couldn’t help but swoon over the 64-year-old rock’n’roll icon whose voice still resonates with that unmistakably crisp tone.
Blondie ended their set with “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” a Michael Jackson tribute that finished just in time to let fans make a break for the bar before Pat Benatar took to the stage.
Benatar soon stormed on, leading her band into “All Fired Up” — and the four piece didn’t let up until “Heartbreaker,” which came almost a dozen songs later. Benatar’s voice was immaculate. The range, power, and emotion behind her balladry held up well even 30 years later. She hit all the high notes while digging for the lows without much strain or effort.
“This is the very first song from the very first record of mine that was ever played on the radio,” Benatar said, before launching into, “I Need a Lover.” She made a point to give a bit of history to go along with each song. Neil “Spyder” Giraldo, she said, “became the first guitar player to ever play on MTV” on the tune.
The audience stayed in their designated seats, yet still managed a waving-armed, wide-hipped ’80s dance while standing in place.
Benatar shared her warmth with the audience, even as she sang the moderately depressing “Hell is for Children.” And toward the end of the set, every song became more iconic than the next: “We Belong,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and “Love is a Battlefield.”
“[This song is] from one of the worst movies ever made,” Benatar joked before launching into “Invincible,” featured in 1985’s cult flick The Legend of Billie Jean
By the end of the night, the crowd was falling over itself, things got loose, and some brave soul finally lit up the first and last joint of the night. Diehard fans saw a great show, got wasted, and might even decide to skip work and Pilates class the next day.
Pat Benatar / Photo By Shoka