Daily Archives: 27 September, 2011

The Cars Live (at last!!!)

Today’s Music: The Cars – Move Like This
Today’s Adventure: Removing my head from my bottom

The Cars came out of New Wave, but transcended to main stream success in a way few other “New Wave” bands did.
Their songs had great hooks, occasionally great lyrics (though honestly, it was sometimes very hard to figure out what the heck Ric Ocasek was talking about!), and as a band that came of age at the start of the music video era, some great videos.

And then, in 1988, they broke up. The band members wandered off to their own projects, Ric Ocasek got into producing and writing songs for others,and Benjamin Orr, the bassist, died.

The story goes that Ric Ocasek was going through a bunch of songs he wrote , trying to decide on studio musicians to record it with, and instead, called up his former bandmates –
Elliot Easton on guitar, Greg Hawkes on keyboards (and now bass as well), and David Robinson on drums. Ric plays rhythm guitar, sings and writes the songs.
And they put out Move Like This. Which sounded exactly like The Cars.
And they announced a tour.

For me, this was a big deal. The Cars were one of the first bands I was aware of and wanted to see, but they broke up (you can keep the New Cars, thanks) and a member died, and Ric Ocasek said “no way in hell” to a reunion.
When tickets for the new tour went on sale, there was no way I would miss it.

I ended up seeing them at Sound Academy in Toronto(a story for another post), and Roseland in NYC.

Both shows were in mid-size Standing-Room-Only venues, about 2000 – 3000 capacity. Both stages were the same, both sets were the same.
They came out and opened with Let the Good Times Roll , a classic. From there they moved into Blue Tip from the new album, and the set list was a nice combination of old and new.
The sound of the new songs is so consistent to the old band that there was nothing jarring in the set list, no feel of jumping from one era to the next.
Ric Ocasek stayed up front the whole show, often just strumming his couple of chords. There was very little interaction with the crowd, and he moved very little.
Hawkes was frenetic behind the keyboard, and at times seemed a bit overwhelmed, especially when coming around to the front and strapping on the bass (when he also gave a shout out to Benjamin Orr).
Easton had several songs where his leads transported him. While The Cars are not (and never were) a jam band, his solos were interesting and far ranging, going from high tinkling notes all the way up the neck, to crunching lines that growled out of the amps.
Robinson on drums kept time solidly, but there was not much beyond the basic rhythm – no interesting fills in his set.

It was good to see them, but in some ways, it was like watching a live video of their albums. One of the joys of going to see live music is the additions, the interaction, hearing new twists on lyrics or music, and The Cars offered very little of that besides the guitar solos.
But the band was on, they played well, and as someone who waited twenty two years to see them (and got to see them twice!), I though they put on a really good show.
the stage dressing and lighting was used to silhouette the payers, and added a nice touch. The sound at both venues was great, and the music was clear and easy to follow.
The crowd was into it, and their enthusiasm made up for the straightforwardness coming off the stage.
Ric even looked a bit uncomfortable, a few times saying “Thank you” after a song, then staying at the microphone a bit longer, without saying anything, for a brief awkward pause. Then the next song would start and they’d get right back into it.

The Cars of yesteryear were icons. The Cars of today seem like they were going out there to acknowledge that, even if they couldn’t quite match it.

But their new album, Move Like This, is great.
And in the words of Irish Paul: “The Cars? Seen ’em”.