Let Me Entertain You: The Cars @ Electric Factory 5.22.11

Going to see The Cars, I had certain expectations, based primarily on experiences seeing other veteran bands in concert. Unlike the Buzzcocks or Public Image Ltd., The Cars would most assuredly be playing new material, having recently released Move Like This. Though the setlist turned out to feature a predictable mix of new songs and old favorites, I could not have anticipated just how much fun this concert would be. With no opener to distract or delay, the four remaining members took the stage as the crowd greeted them as old friends.

Ric Ocasek and Elliot Easton’s guitars began to crank out the mechanical opening bars to “Good Times Roll,” and the expertly-paced show was underway. Though I criticized the songs on Move Like This for being mere impressions of classic Cars songs, the new tunes fit in quite snugly alongside the familiar tunes. “Blue Tip” and “Keep On Knocking” sounded great live, though I must admit that I didn’t recognize some of the new songs until their titles came up in the lyrics. Oh well.

Even with just four current members, The Cars’ sound has not thinned at all. For a few songs in the middle of the set, keyboardist Greg Hawkes switched over to the bass guitar, giving a slinky bottom end to two of the band’s more experimental songs, “I’m In Touch With Your World” and the tempo-shifting “Touch And Go.” Those selections were surprising, almost as surprising as the absence of a few of The Cars’ best-known hits. Naturally, songs originally sung by late bassist Benjamin Orr were in short supply, though Ocasek did lead everyone in “Just What I Needed” during the encore. The title songs from Candy-O and Shake It Up were also skipped in favor of deeper tracks from each album, namely “Let’s Go” and “I’m Not The One.”

Watching The Cars was a deeply satisfying thing. There’s a kind of revitalization, a rebirth. It’s very apparent that these guys have missed playing these songs with each other, and their onstage chemistry, while still plenty focused and stoic, betrays their love of performance. That a band can take almost 25 years off and return in such a strong fashion is a testament not only to the staying power of their music, but to the tenacity of the musicians themselves. They’re drawn to the stage just as we listeners are drawn to them. The Cars mean different things to different people: to some it’s nostalgia, to others they’re pioneers. The Cars meet and defy all expectations by staying true to their creative mission, no matter how many decades it takes to fully realize it.

Click the picture at the top of this post to see more pictures of The Cars in concert!

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~ by E. on May 24, 2011.

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