Monday, May 23, 2011

Show Review: The Cars at the Riviera Theater, Chicago (May 18, 2011)

Ric Ocasek, The Cars (vocals/guitar)
Photo by Andy Argyrakis
By Jason Duarte

The Cars released its first album in 24 years, Move Like This, on May 10. In support of the new record, they've embarked on a U.S. tour. On May 18, they stopped at the Riviera Theater in Chicago to play a sold-out show. The line was around the corner, but when doors opened, it quickly filled the venue, and the wait wasn't long. I got lucky and scored a ticket for $15 less than face value on Craigslist, because this guy's friend couldn't make it, so I was happy.

Anyway, the show had no openers - just The Cars were set to play at 8 p.m. They took the stage at about 8:15 p.m., the crowd cheered, and they went right into "Good Times Roll" off The Cars' self-titled debut album. Singer/guitarist Ric Ocasek barely said a word or changed his facial expression the entire set, which lasted an hour and a half, to my surprise. He was very stagnant and rooted in his front-and-center position on the stage. In an interview with Cars drummer, David Robinson, he said he quit playing drums in 1987; he had to not only re-learn all the songs, but re-learn how to play drums. It was totally worth it - I couldn't tell at all. There were a few songs they didn't play that I would have liked to hear; "Magic," "It's All I Can Do" and "Drive." I know the late Benjamin Orr is dead, but that didn't stop them from playing "Just What I Needed," which Orr sang. I mean, "Drive" was the band's highest-climbing hit and I'm surprised they didn't play that one. The set was loaded with new songs off Move Like This. They played 60% of the new album, which was cool - but I'd have sacrificed a song or two to hear some of the aforementioned better Cars pop songs.
The crowd was a bit of a letdown, I thought. Most of them were aged 40+, and I assume don't go to shows very often, especially at venues like the Riviera (a total assumption), but it felt that way, sensing their awkwardness. Some sang along to the hits, but there were a lot of uncomfortable and awkward looks being shot around. The woman in front of me had no problem letting loose and having a good time. She was dancing and singing along most of the show and made a cloth banner that read, "Welcome back, Ric," with a little heart dotting the I. Towards the end of the set, she knotted it up and threw it on stage, and it went unacknowledged. I could tell she was a little disappointed that he didn't pick it up. The show was great, but the biggest disappointment was during the hand-claps in "Let's Go;" you know the ones I'm talking about. Maybe a handful of other people and myself did that, while the rest of the audience stood like deer in headlights. I'm not saying I expect every crowd to be way into it, but this is The Cars, people. They haven't released an album for almost as long as I've been alive and they've got a still-huge fanbase - enough to sell out a venue in Chicago at $65/ticket - I would expect people be more active and let loose. I heard some other folks complaining about the audience's lack of energy as well, but I think the older the crowd, the less energy they're going to put into it. Had there been opening bands, I wonder how many people would have stayed late, or showed up for them. Anyway, all in all, it was a great show, just an out-of-my-element type of show. I got to see one of my all-time favorite bands, and despite the rude, drunk guy standing behind me who blamed me for him dropping his phone and the deer-in-headlights dusters, the show was pretty solid. You want the set list from that night? Make an iTunes playlist and re-live it if you didn't get a chance to go.

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
Keep On Knocking
You Might Think
Drag On Forever
I'm Not the One
Sad Song
Heartbeat City
Let's Go
Movin' In Stereo
Just What I Needed
You're All I've Got Tonight

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