Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Tonight I went to see The Cars for the first time. They were absolutely huge when I was in high school, but for some reason, I never caught them in concert. And it doesn't seem like they've done a great job of curating their legacy. Ric Ocasek in particular has always seemed ambivalent about the prospect of a reunion. So the news that they were reuniting for a tour and album was pretty surprising.

But I knew Ric wasn't going to make it easy on us. He's not a nostalgic guy. Yes, they played  a lot of their greatest hits, but they also played a lot of songs from their new album, Move Like This. But it made it hard for the setlist to pick up too much momentum.  I hate to sound like a classic rock radio person here.  With other artists, like Petty, Dylan and Springsteen for instance, I like hearing new songs. But when you haven't toured in 25 years, I just don't think it's cool to play that many new songs.

Fortunately, almost all of their old songs are so incredible, that all it takes is a few notes from a song, and the energy level exploded whenever they went into a classic. When I was listening to some of those songs tonight, it struck me that their greatest moments can compare to the some of the greatest rock and roll artists ever, like Buddy Holly (always an obvious influence on Ocasek) and Creedence Clearwater Revival (whose Doug Clifford and Stu Cook hired Elliot Easton for one of their Creedence Revisited projects).  I mean, some of the songs, like "My Best Friend's Girl," "Let's Go" and "Just What I Needed" are perfect and have not an ounce of fat on them. They're just perfect.

I wondered how they would replace singer/bassist Ben Orr, who passed away a few years ago. It turns out, they really didn't. Ric sang all of Ben's songs, and keyboardist Greg Hawkes played some basslines on keys, and picked up the bass guitar (which actually belonged to Orr) on a few songs. (On the album, Hawkes played some bass, as did producer Jacknife Lee).

So, the deal is (if you're looking to see them on this tour): they don't use an opening act, they play almost exactly 90 minutes, lots of new songs but also classics, including "Let The Good Times Roll," "My Best Friend's Girl," "Let's Go," "Just What I Needed" and "You're All I Got Tonight" (which was NOT followed by "Bye Bye Love": I almost think of them as two parts of the same song).   Some more surprising picks were "Since You're Gone," "I'm In Touch With Your World," "Moving In Stereo" and "Heartbeat City." Also "You Might Think," which I never really loved, but listening to it in my car earlier today, I realized what a great song it is.

My friend who I went to the concert with and I agreed that if they just did their 1978 self-titled debut start to finish (which would take a little over a half hour) that that would be a pretty satisfying show, so I'll hope for that in the future. (Fill in the blank with your own variation on a "You're All I Got Tonight" joke here).

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