Review of The Cars' Concert, Globe and Mail, August 29, 1980
|The Cars stick to one basic model|
BY ALAN NIESTER
Now don't get me wrong. It's not that I dislike The Cars, the Boston new wave quintet that played before 20,000 fans at the CNE last night. Heavens, when I and the crowd of young sophisticates I run with get together for a little random shaking of the tail feather, chances are as good as even that the first Cars album will be at the top of our dance list.
It's just that, in a live situation, the very real inadequacies of this most popular, yet least commercial sounding of all platinum-selling groups, comes bubbling to the fore. The most obvious of these inadequacies is the similarity of the songs themselves. The Cars really have only one song, which they repeat just enough times to fill more than an hour of stage time. Granted, they occasionally change the tempo to add variety. They'll speed it up and call it Let's Go or Let The Good Times Roll, or they'll slow it down and call it Moving In Stereo, but it's basically all the same - just a heavy rhythm chunking away while a synthesizer doodles in the background and a couple of band members sing in a deadly monotone over the top.
Over all, it must be noted that The Cars gave a slightly better show last night than they did last year, when they played Maple Leaf Gardens. This is largely due to the fact that they have invested in one of those big stage sets that seem all the rage these days. It [sic] keeping with their spartan musical style, The Cars' set is basically a metal wall with screen-like affairs on which various colors and shapes can be projected. When polka dots were the motif, it looked something like an airplane hangar with acne - but then, the new wave is always full of surprises.
For the most part of the evening, the 20,000 youngsters on hand sat bemusedly through the numbers from The Cars' newest album, Panorama, but cheered wildly for the hits [sic] songs with which they were familiar. But it was not for the performance they were cheering, it was for the memory of those great (when taken in small doses) songs pulsing through the speakers of the car radio.
Thus it's no wonder that opening act Martha Davis and The Motels didn't receive the accolades they deserved. Although the Los Angeles-based quintet is lumped in with the new wave movement, last night it presented a half-hour of dazzling traditional progressive rock that should have left the audience in a shambles, but didn't. The Motels adapted particularly well to the big stage setting, and displayed even more power and verve than they did on recent club appearances here. It's just unfortunate that they haven't had a big AM radio hit yet, which was the only reason most of last night's audience didn't approve of them.