PHOTOS: The Cars at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, Colo - Reverb

Live review: The Cars @ the Fillmore Auditorium

For the first time in 24 years, the original line-up of new wave icons the Cars are on the road (guitarist/vocalist Ric Ocasek, guitarist Elliot Easton, keyboardist Greg Hawkes and drummer David Robinson – bassist Benjamin Orr passed away in 2000). The group is doing a quick 10-city tour in support of their surprisingly decent new record, “Move Like This,” and stopped at the Fillmore Auditorium last night.

Originally formed in 1976, along with like-minded acts such as Blondie and Devo, the Cars are that rare band that is poppy enough for the mainstream, yet quirky enough for the indie set. And this was apparent among the eclectic crowd, which skewed to the over-35 long-time fan sect, but saw a few younger faces dotted throughout the packed venue as well.

The band came out sounding strong, as the Fillmore’s acoustics are ideal for their minimalist power pop. They opened with the classic “Good Times Roll” before jumping right into the synth-driven new tune “Blue Tip,” followed up by another nugget, “Since You’re Gone,” to which the audience, clearly there to hear the band’s timeless tunes, roared their approval.

However, as if to prove this is not just a nostalgia trip, Ocasek and company shied away from playing hit after hit, throwing in plenty of new tracks and some album cuts from their back catalog. Ironically, the lanky, ageless Ocasek, in skinny black tie and Ray Bans, did look as though he’d stepped out of a time warp from 1987.

Guitarist Easton’s lively performance stood out from his reserved counterparts (the Cars were never known for being too lively on stage) as he ran through several tasteful solos (e.g. “Best Friend’s Girl”) and bantered briefly to the crowd between tracks.

Hawkes stepped out from behind his impressive keyboard set-up to play bass guitar and offer a “tip of the hat” to his late band mate (Orr) before adeptly performing the punchy, serpentine bass lines of “Touch and Go.”

Weighed down with newer cuts, the second half of their brief 80-minute set lagged a bit. The Cars ran the risk of losing the audience’s full attention before the atmospheric title track to 1985’s “Heartbeat City” brought everyone back into focus just in time for anthemic set closer “Let’s Go.”

The band returned for a quick encore that offered the welcome synth-pop of radio staples “Moving In Stereo” and “Just What I Needed,” before leaving the crowd cheering for more. Though never too revved up, the Cars executed their set tightly and proved through the strength of their songwriting that they are an American classic, no matter the decade.

Set list:
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
Free
I’m Not The One
Sad Song
Heartbeat City
Let’s Go

Encore:
Moving In Stereo
Just What I Needed

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Michael Behrenhausen is a Denver-based writer, musician and regular Reverb contributor. The worst crime he ever did was play some rock ‘n’ roll.

Tina Hagerling is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. Check out more of her concert photography.

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  • Bargelldesign

    Thanks for the great review, Michael! I am a bit surprised that they didn’t end the evening with Ocasek (or at least someone) covering “Drive.” u2014Matt

  • Lonmaemull

    Amazing concert!u00a0 Amazing group.u00a0u00a0You could tell Ric was enjoying himself.u00a0 He smiled at the audience when we sang the songs to him.u00a0 and I loved that he blew us a kiss.u00a0 :-)u00a0

  • 40 # Banana

    I flew in from Tampa for other reasons, but scheduled the trip so I could catch this show.u00a0u00a0I have to say, you generally nailed the review; however, I think the new record is more than “decent” and the band seemed to me to play with slightly more passion (though that is admittedly hard to discern) on the new stuff.u00a0 “Keepu00a0on Knocking” was simply superb, while “Up and Down” from the Panorama recordu00a0deserved to be singled out as particularly good and surprising.u00a0 u00a0I also thought “Free” from the new record was fantastic.u00a0 Nice review.

  • Djedwards18

    u00a0I liked the way they played but when they said good night after 80 mins,,,I felt incredibly ripped off…they haven’t played 20 years and 7 or 8 lps, no opener and that was it?? COMEON!!!???

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