The Cars are back! The Cars are back! The temptation to pun my way through this preview may be too great to resist, so I’ll just get it out of the way and then get into gear—see what I mean? Although a few years back he had said he wouldn’t do it, Ric Ocasek is in the driver’s seat once again, and this recharged unit is hitting the road. (OK, I’ll try to stop now.)
The Cars came onto the scene during the latter-day ’70s, when punk and new wave crashed the arena rock and disco dregs that were permeating radio. With their cool, sleek detachment (no one ever smiled), their quirky looks, their artsy album covers and, most importantly, their pop sensibility, the Cars were the most commercially accessible among the punks and new wavers. No anarchy here. No political message. No jumping around with flowerpots on their heads. They were rock and roll—with a deadpan dash of pure pop.
The band broke up in the late ’80s, and the death of bassist Ben Orr seemed to cement the finality of the split. There was a fairly recent attempt to reconstruct the band as the NEW Cars, with Todd Rundgren at the helm, but that didn’t gain any traction. So it was with absolute giddy and unsuspecting delight that we received news of Ocasek and the old gang getting back together to record their first album in 24 years: Move Like This, to be released May 10, just in time for the reunion tour. And all it took was a phone call. Guitarist Elliot Easton called Ocasek, found out he was writing songs, and suggested that they make a Cars record. Pretty soon, drummer David Robinson and keyboardist Greg Hawkes (who fills in for Orr’s bass parts) were onboard and a road map was in the works.
Editor’s note: Information updated on May 31, 2011.
Right now, a limited number of concerts are scheduled, including the May 22 show at Philadelphia’s Electric Factory. Songs originally sung by the late Orr are included in the set list, with Ocasek taking over those vocals. Expect a very healthy dose of all those great Car-tunes from their ’70s-’80s heyday, interspersed with new ones that sound like the old ones—yay for that. Move Like This feels like the band just picked up where it left off, without missing a beat. Their look is as quirky as it was before, too, with skinny legs and skinny ties. And Ocasek’s Adam’s apple still enters the room before he does.
Caution! The Electric Factory is not for the faint of heart. The name itself holds a special place in many an ex-hippie’s heart—but we were oh-so-much younger then. It’s mostly standing room, with limited seats in the upstairs bar. The floors are sticky, and it can get mighty pushy with a sold-out crowd. That said, this is one of those times when you’re just going to have to “Shake It Up” and “Drive” on down to Seventh and Callowhill for a not-to-be-missed performance.
When: May 22, 8 p.m.
Where: Electric Factory, 421 N. Seventh St., Philadelphia.
Tickets: $49.75, plus $10.70 in fees; $52.75 day of show. No service charge for cash purchases at the box office. Call (215) 627-1332 or (800) 745-3000, or visit electricfactory.info or ticketmaster.com.
Parking: Cash-only lots; some metered parking available.