Patty Smyth, cohorts bring back timeless beat
09:55 AM CDT on Friday, August 17, 2007
She's almost criminal, that Patty Smyth. Twenty-three years after "The Warrior" conquered the airwaves, making her and her band Scandal mainstream sensations, the New York native looks and sounds as if not a day has gone by. Surely she's made a devious pact for eternal youth with somebody.
Not only that, but she's funny and personable onstage. She sweats out a performance, wringing power and pathos from a still-sturdy batch of songs. With her Scandal buddies in tow, Ms. Smyth won over a dedicated crowd Thursday night at House of Blues' Cambridge Room. For about 70 minutes, sans props or even an instrument, she was frontwoman extraordinaire. Forget nostalgia act, Patty Smyth & Scandal were just plain good, no matter the decade.
While casual music listeners will home in on "The Warrior" and promptly stamp Scandal a one-hit wonder, that song barely tells the tale. With only two albums to its credit – one of which was a five-song EP – and a pair of solo discs from Ms. Smyth, this musical brood covered much ground.
Scandal straddled the fence, dividing the decidedly '80s new-wave sound from timeless, no-frills pop-rock. Take 1982's "Goodbye to You," which Ms. Smyth and cohorts delivered as, well, the last song. You will not find a catchier, more propulsive slice of '80s new-wave ever. The cut brings back memories of pencil-thin neckties, teased hair and reckless dancing.
Plus, Ms. Smyth sang it with such joyful abandon. She may be 50, but she moves like she's 30. There's another characteristic of Scandal's artistry. The material continues to ring true. Yes, these numbers will remind you of younger days. Yet there's a world-wise tone about them. The sexy, sinewy "Hands Tied" and the hefty "Beat of the Heart" come off as adult anthems now.
Then there's "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough," Ms. Smyth's solo hit from 1992. She described it as basically her "anti-wedding song." She sang it with throaty passion. It's one of those radio ballads that actually got better with age. The song's message, that love alone doesn't guarantee happiness, is so universal it's almost an afterthought.
And, of course, we got "The Warrior," a piece of commercial fluff that makes you want to belt shamelessly. Who can forget that chorus: "Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang, bang! I am the warrior." The entire room was shouting the lyrics as Ms. Smyth made her way through the crowd for a third time.
Suddenly, within the space of four minutes, we were all 20 again and it was 1984. Ms. Smyth and her bandmates took us back to the days when looking good and feeling great were just a radio hit away.