Pat Benatar, Neil Giraldo, Bachman & Turner and America

By Jake Ebdale

Artists:  Pat Benatar, Neil Giraldo, Bachman & Turner and America

Date / Venue:  Sunday 17 Feb - Matakana Country Park, Matakana, NORTH AUCKLAND

At first I was apprehensive about going to this whopper of a triple bill in beautiful, traffic jammed Matakana.Pat Benatar, Bachman Turner Overdrive and America were big stars decades ago, but the time comes when the hits dry up, albums stop selling and people need to be reminded these bands still exist outside of oldies radio stations.

So now, they co-headline a national tour playing the same set times of an hour and a half, slipping in the obligatory new song of their latest album and playing their biggest songs last. It's become the usual fare here in New Zealand; tours solely based on nostalgia, merchandise, expensive food and mum and dad on the booze. This is the conclusion I made before getting there - and it turns out I was right. This plus an endless sea of straw hats.

The music itself was pleasant. America came on at 1pm, and the music was decently executed; Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell had some great stories from the road too. There were the hits (they had about five in their career), the covers and the "you might know this one" moment when, looking around, no one really did. The highlights of ‘Ventura Highway' mid set and ‘A Horse with No Name' last propped the crowd into motion, instead of the dreck from the new album.

Bachman & Turner, formerly Bachman Turner Overdrive, hit the stage at 3pm. By this time the sun was an absolute scorcher and there was limited shade (at this time I wish I'd invested in a straw hat). BTO, believe it or not, have stood the test of time with their working class, blue collar songs of triumph, and they sounded young and revitalised for a portion of their set. ‘Hey You' was good. ‘You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet' was the highlight of the entire bill, a great song that splices Dylan and the Kinks, but a bit heavier and groovier. ‘Takin' Care of Business', played last, was another great moment that had three quarters of the field on their feet yelling back to the band.

Pat Benatar and her husband Neil Giraldo were the headliners, and their set was a little bit louder and flashier than the rest. She opened with ‘All Fired Up', and hit her stride with ‘I Need a Lover', ‘Invincible' and ‘We Belong'. Her singing voice is in top shape (her speaking voice not so much) and the interplay between the hubby and wife of 31 years was a bit cute. But it was all over with ‘Hit Me with Your Best Shot' - a song kept in the public psyche through sports montages and Guitar Hero. The whole crowd were off their fold up chairs, kickin' over their lagers and dancing strangely. A great crowd song. My only gripe: for the people at the back, there were no big screens...given the demographic of the crowd this would've helped to see stuff.

Over all, this was an enjoyable, humid occasion to let down your hair, or bob around in a straw hat, and dance the day away like no one was watching. Did it smell of nostalgia? Oh yes, it reeked of it. But the grounds were absolutely chocka and the corporate box was on the booze, which is a testament to these multiple bill tours and their combined hit songs of 12 - they rakes in some good old moneys. A great time had by all (who wanted the hits).