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The Cars motor on through Philadelphia’s Electric Factory with new songs and classic hits

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It’s kind of ironic that one of the songs played over the Electric Factory’s PA system prior to The Cars taking the stage Sunday night was Buddy Holly’s The Cars 2011. Photo: Article photo: www.hiponline.com“That’ll Be the Day.”
 
Thankfully, this no longer applies to the recently reunited group, who were a mainstay on the Billboard charts from the late 1970’s to the late 1980’s.

Prior to Sunday, the last time The Cars played in Philadelphia was at The Spectrum in 1987. Their return to the city of brotherly love on Sunday was a mixture of old classics and new songs from their brand new album “Move Like This,” which entered the Billboard charts last week at number 7.   

The set kicked off with “Good Times Roll,” the opening track from their 1978 self-titled debut album, followed by their new album's opening track “Blue Tip”. Overall, the band played six songs from "Move," including the latest single “Sad Song.” It seemed as if the sound crew was having some issues in the early going. If they did however, nobody in the band let on, and the crowd clapped in unison to the opening of “My Best Friend’s Girl.”

Cars’ frontman Ric Ocasek still manages to pull the old songs off as if he kept on singing them for years. In fact, Ocasek is one of the rare singers of his time (Tom Petty and James Taylor also come to mind) whose voice never seems to change. This was evident on songs like  “Since You’re Gone” and “Heartbeat City.”   

Though notoriously known for his stoic demeanor on stage, it’s obvious that Ocasek was enjoying himself. Despite keeping his on-stage banter to a minimum, he often flashed smiles to the crowd and acknowledged the fans without seeming to even break a sweat. “Hope I’m not talking too much tonight,” he deadpanned before the group went into “You Might Think.” He even let the crowd sing the end of the verse right before the song’s bridge.

Every band has a difference maker- that one band member who is as steady as they come, or whose musicianship clearly gives the band an edge or sound that other bands don’t have. In The Cars, that person is Greg Hawkes, who moved on stage in unison to the innovative and classic synth patterns he played. Hawkes made sure every band member (with the exception of Ocasek) was in unison with each other while also pulling double duty by playing bass on “Touch and Go” (the beginning of which he offered a “tip of the hat” to Ben Orr, The Cars deceased bassist), and the deep cut  “I’m In Touch With Your World.”   

If Hawkes is the glue, it’s safe to say that left-handed guitarist Elliot Easton’s playing on Cars’ albums is some of the best work you will hear from a rock guitarist of that era. This was particularly evident on “Touch” and “Just What I Needed,” as well as the group’s extended version of the encore closer “You’re All I've Got Tonight.”  Drummer David Robinson basically played to a click track for most of the show and was steady. Surprisingly, Robinson has barely touched the drums since The Cars’ original breakup in 1988, preferring other business ventures.  

Also notable during the course of the show was the relative ease with which Ocasek sang Orr’s songs (after all, Ocasek DID write them), especially the rocking “Let’s Go,” arguably the best song of the evening, as well as two of the encores “Moving In Stereo,” and “Needed.”

While The Cars were not exactly known for their dynamic stage presence in their hey day, they always preferred to let their music speak for itself. And as evidenced by the reactions of the standing only crowd during their performance, it’s safe to say those songs are a part of pop history, and aren’t going anywhere for a long time.

We can only hope the same goes for The Cars themselves.

Setlist

Good Times Roll
Blue Tip
Since You’re Gone
Up and Down
My Best Friend’s Girl
Hits Me
Touch and Go
I’m In Touch With Your World
You Might Think
Drag On Forever
Free
I’m Not the One
Sad Song
Heartbeat City
Let’s Go

Encore

Moving In Stereo
Just What I Needed
You’re All I've Got Tonight

 

Contact Joe at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Special thanks to Chris Robinson at Big Hassle Media

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Article photo: www.hiponline.com