Early in the New Cars’ headline debut at Bank of America Pavilion on a week ago Wednesday (Blondie were the opener), frontman Todd Rundgren greeted the “long-suffering Boston fan base.” You could take that two ways. Boston fans have been suffering because local favorites the Cars haven’t toured in 18 years. And no doubt some are suffering at the thought of the outfit’s reviving itself without mastermind Ric Ocasek or the late bassist/singer Ben Orr.
But on stage, the new line-up didn’t sound like a tribute act, and neither did it sound (as it often does on the just-released It’s Alive) like a Cars/Utopia hybrid. It sounded like the real thing. The arena flash of Elliot Easton’s guitar work and the cool elegance of Greg Hawkes’s synthesizers remain the Cars’ instrumental trademarks, new or old. Rundgren’s voice fit in better than you might have imagined, in part because he’s good at imitating other singers, in part because he understands and respects the nuances of Ocasek’s writing.
This line-up was also more animated than the original ever was, and the stage set-up (a bare set with film projections) was minimal in the Cars tradition. Material was what you’d expect: nearly all the big hits (they missed “Magic” and “Tonight She Comes”); key album tracks like “Dangerous Type” and all but two from the hit-filled debut album; a few Rundgren tunes and the new single “Not Tonight.” There were lots of wide grins (Easton, who’d broken his clavicle just two days earlier, was clearly thrilled to be there), and songs that used to rely on programming (“Drive”) were done entirely live. After a time it was just a band playing great songs, and playing the hell out of them.
: Live Reviews
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