FREE SPEECH ZONE | The Past Meets the Future – The Cars at First Avenue


Tonight the Cars returned to the stage after a 24 year haitus.  As an almost fifty-something I couldn’t pass up the chance to see one of the most influential bands from my youth.  The crowd was noticably middle aged, but with a good mix of younger hipsters in attendance to see these rock legends.  

The line up included the original band members, with the exception of the late bassist Benjamin Orr, who died of cancer in 2000.  Orr’s bass guitar sat center stage for most of the night, and after a dedication was played by keyboardist Greg Hawkes during a few songs.  

At the helm was Ric Ocasek on lead vocals and rythum guitar.  As the writer of almost all the Cars songs, it was Ric who initiated the current album and tour.  Tonight Ric’s vocals were solid and well tuned.  

Playing to a sold out house, the band started a main set that was much quieter that I remember recent shows at First Avenue.  The lead-off “Let the Good Times Roll” was measured and steady, and seemed more like a warm-up lap for the band.  

The followup was the popular single “Blue Tip” from the new album “Move Like This”.   Like all the songs from the new album, it showcases the Cars 2011 sound that is deep and rich, leaning much more to solid rock and roll, as compared to their earlier New Wave sound.

 Rather than detracting from a reunion tour rendition, two more new songs “Hit Me” and “Keep on Knocking” showed just how good these musicians really are.  It also showed that the songs from the new album have been written for the new four-piece Cars.  Ocasek shows his mastery as a song-writer, creating songs that extend The Cars, rather than trying to imitate their earlier sound.

The stand-out performance of the night goes to Elliot Easton, the left-handed lead guitarist, who played and embellished Cars standards “My Berst Friend’s Girl”, “Touch and Go” and “Let’s Go.  The entire band was spot on tonight.  

Unfortunately, the band never really let loose and veered off the set renditions of most of their songs – pretty understandable for the earlier studio-oriented sound the original band.  The band did do a good job of arranging and performing studio hits into live performance pieces, especially “I’m in touch with your World” and I’m Not the One”

Tonight’s playlist of previous era Cars was heavily skewed to early hits, and included almost all of the their first self-titled album “the Cars”.  The line-up was also well arranged, and built to a mighty trio of encore hits with “Moving in Stereo”, “Just What I Needed” and You’re All I’ve Got Tonight.  

Tonight The Cars gave us the best of both worlds, a nostalgic tour of their discography, and a showing of the song-writing and performing talent of this band.  Can expect The Cars to revolutionize the music scene like they did not the 70’s and 80’s? Probably not.  What we can expect is solid performances from musical masters, and some new music that will further their epic position in rock history.  

The Cars  at First Avenue – May 17th, 2011

Playlist: Song – Album


  1. Let the Good Times Roll – The Cars
  2. Blue Tip – Move Like This
  3. Since You’re Gone – Shake it Up
  4. Up and Down – Panorama
  5. My Best Friend’s Girl – The Cars
  6. Hits Me – Move Like This
  7. Touch and Go – Panorama
  8. I’m in Touch with Your World – The Cars
  9. Keep On Knocking – Move Like This
  10. You Might Think – Heartbeat City
  11. Take Another Look – Move Like This
  12. (new song)
  13. I’m Not the One – Shake it Up
  14. Sad Song – Move Like This
  15. Heartbeat City – Heartbeat City
  16. Let’s Go – Candy-O


  1. Moving in Stereo – The Cars
  2. Just What I Needed – The Cars
  3. You’re all I’ve got Tonight – The Cars
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