Though music critics and fans often argue for and against the reunions of long broken-up bands, virtually everyone seems to agree this year’s Cars reunion is downright weird.
Despite disinterest (from lead singer and guitarist Ric Ocasek), retirement (drummer David Robinson) and death (bassist Ben Orr, from cancer), the other two members of the Cars, guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkins, simply got creative with the lineup and name. They dubbed the project the New Cars and, after an unbelievable 17-year hiatus, hit the road.
To help pull it off, they enlisted cult legend Todd “I Don’t Wanna Work I Just Want to Bang on the Drum All Day” Rundgren to front the band and brought along Meatloaf collaborator Kasim Sultan on bass and Tubes member Prairie Prince to round out the experiment. Almost immediately, the idea was met with skepticism. It even seemed cursed when their VH1-sponsored tour with Blondie was cut short after Easton was injured falling out of his bunk when their tour bus swerved.
With Easton healed, the New Cars decided to get back on the road on their own and close out the year with their Winter Rage Tour, which has seen the band play to half-empty rooms, a few cancellations due to poor ticket sales and one show missed due to weather.
The New Cars’ stop in classic-rock-loving Ventura on Dec. 14 was far from sold out, but the almost entirely white audience, most in their 40s and 50s, were all in a good mood and giving the band and the bar a lot of love throughout the night.
The New Cars took the stage with a pretty snazzy setup, complete with two massive aluminum circles which housed the drummer and keyboardist. Without saying a word, the band wisely started things off with a handful of hits, including “Shake It Up”, “Let’s Go” and “Best Friend’s Girl”.
It was when the New Cars moved deeper into the catalog that the real difficulty of the situation hit home. The band is best known for 10 songs. Granted, those 10 songs are amazing and massive hits, but beyond that the band was always considered boring live, and their lesser-known album tracks are completely forgettable. Performing said tunes is a task even harder to sustain when the majority of the original members are nowhere to be found.
Things took a turn for the worse when they plugged their new live album, which has three brand new songs, one of which they played: “Not Tonight,” a cheap New Wave-y rocker that left the audience heading to the bathroom and to the still-bumping bar.
It wasn’t all bad, though. To the New Cars’ credit, they were clearly having a good time, they did play all the hits, Rundgren sounded a lot like Ocasek, the theater’s sound and lights were top notch and the band encored in fake mustaches playing the Borat theme song which, by anyone’s standards, is pretty cool.
It was a pleasant if fairly boring show. The boomers got their dose of the classic stuff, but for the pricey ticket the New Cars are asking for, it would be doubtful anyone beyond hardcore Cars fans and Todd Rundgren disciples would pay to see it again.