In the days leading up to seeing The Cars I had that same excited feeling I had before seeing The Police. I’ve loved both of these bands since I was first able to buy their 45’s with my allowance money. Now I had the money and means (my bike) to see The Cars play on Friday, May 20th at the Sound Academy in Toronto. I chanced it and did not buy a ticket. It was a Friday night on the first long weekend of the summer — of course I’m going for scalpers. After some haggling I got a $76 ticket for $35, not bad. It was an early start, 8pm — that’s the way I like it nowadays. You have choices after the show — go out or go to sleep.
I love going to reunion gigs. You get a chance to mingle with your contemporaries and relive all the great moments that the band has given you over the years. The first challenge was finding a good spot. I settled in about halfway back from the front near the bar, and there he was: Mr. Rick Ocasek — standing like a statue delivering his beat poet prose. To his left, Greg Hawkes ripping synth riffs that laid the blueprint for New Wave and cut into you, making you question “do we even need guitars?” After a somewhat sluggish version of “My Best Friend’s Girl,” Ocasek dedicated the next song, “Touch and Go,” to Benjamin Orr with Greg Hawkes playing bass. The audience responded with warm applause. I got the feeling we were all thinking about how much Orr is missed, recognizing the loss and pulling for them to play his songs (“Just what I Needed”, “Let’s Go”, “Candy-O”, “Drive”…)
The highlights included “Touch and Go” — going from lonely despair to a clickety clack country ride, “Let’s Go” — with the audience screaming “I like the night life baby,” the condensed pounding of “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight,” and the trippy, uneasy “Moving in Stereo” (yes, I did think of the scene in Fast Times Ridgemont High). “Sad Song” and “Free” from the new album Move Like This reminded me that they can still craft smooth ballads and angular, bouncy pop songs with equal aplomb.
Was I blown way? No. Did I have smile on my face all night? Yes…and I bought the T-shirt.