The Beginning of Road Rage

Review by Gio Bruno (Switch to

Friday, May 12, 2006
Grand Casino Event Center, Tunica, Mississippi

I have almost no criticisms of this performance, so I apologize if this sounds like a love letter.

Drove down to Tunica from Little Rock and was amazed at how nice the Grand Casinoís event center was. Plus no bing-bong casino noises reached into the hall. Had a 3rd row seat on the far right floor (stage left). Blondie were set up to the front with a curtain hiding the New Cars setup. The curtain had tall grey rectangles on black which were lit with skyscaper window squares during the Blondie set. Very nice effect. Blondie were mixed very well -- I really like this hall. Debbie Harry looked and sounded great. Hit every note. Great interaction with the crowd. I am only familiar with their hits, but I enjoyed the whole set. The band was excellent. Chrisís solos were right on. That fine signature tone and approach (thumb and finger picks on electric).

During the break between sets I met Doug Powell back by the sound board. He was as gracious and pleasant as could be, and I really enjoyed our quick conversation. After the curtain was removed and the roadies had prepared for the New Cars, the set that geniuses Michael Cotton (who I spoke with after the show -- also gracious) and Prairie Prince devised was amazing. Risers to the back for Prairie and Greg. Four angled, huge, white, horizontal, oval-shaped video screens suspended off the back wall circling a vertical oval contraption containing many moving spotlights. To the left (stage right) a vertical 3 spots -- red, yellow and green -- that flashed out over the crowd like a giant traffic light ala New Cars logo. Not every song, but many, had an accompanying slide show or video of great images to complement the lyrics -- each screen with a different show. During the first song these pictures were many tinted black and white photos of each band memberís face ala Hard Dayís Night. Superb. Top notch, cutting edge lighting effects throughout.

I didnít keep a song list because, once again, I know the Carsí hits but not their catalog. To see the list go to: The band took the stage with Elliot to the left (stage right), Kasim to the right (stage left) and TR in the center. Prairie left of center and Greg to the right. I was seated just below Kaz. TR had his forget-the-lyrics battle early in the first song, Hello Again, newly worked up, obviously, as itís not on the CD. Probably only diehard Cars fans noticed his slips. To me the rest of the show was flawless. If they made mistakes, it wasnít obvious. On several songs (I remember particularly Dangerous Type) Elliot would take the solo in the prescribed place and then at the end of the song during the vamp TR would solo back and forth with Elliot. Stupendous. So those wanting to hear TR wail on guitar, there are plenty of opportunities in this show. Elliot never missed a note of his signature parts and watching him play was sheer joy. Like watching say, Eric Johnson, I love to see a player who works hard for every wonderfully correct note -- a human, not an effortless, passionless alien.

I am so glad Prairie is a part of this. His dynamic, powerful drumming along with Kaz's solid bass make this a true rocking show. The few times I saw the Cars live on TV during their heyday, they were so understated that I truly like this configuration much better live. TR never mimiced Ric and strove to make each vocal his own, winning me (and I think, the crowd) easily. Kasim also sang 2 leads, All Mixed Up and Drive, and brought the house down with his (pick a superlative) delivery and passion. His bass playing was playful and masterful, always complemeting the material. Greg played all those wonderful keyboard parts perfectly, yet freshly improvisationally, and also wowed us with a great sax solo!

4, not 2, TR songs on the list. Highlights of them were the dead-on dual guitar solo in I Saw The Light, and a first time performed Black Maria (HOT). After Drive, which had Elliot playing electric 12-string and TR on the beautiful space-age black acoustic from the end of the Todd/Joe tour, they kept these instruments and moved to the front of the stage with Prairie on djembe (hand drum), Greg on electric ukulele and Kaz on tambourine. The four vocallists shared a mic for Bang the Uke and more than halfway through Prairie and Kaz returned to bass and drums to ignite into the original arrangement of Bang the Drum -- a crowd-pleasing show stopper! Last but not least, an incendiary version of Open My Eyes that was better than any previous configuration (TRís Utopia or Power Trio) at taking the Nazz version and dragging it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. It was like ... a brand spankiní new car.

Highlights of the Cars songs for me were Moving In Stereo, Candy-O and Dangerous Type. Suggestion: Bye Bye Love would make a great medley with Do Ya due to the similar chord pattern! Many patrons were singing along to all the songs.

The audience participation part of Good Times Roll previously seen on Leno was pure excitement in a live hall, with the people participating with an outpouring of youth and vigor some of us old guys havenít shown a band since last century. Many beautiful guitars graced the stage including Elliotís new steel-blue SG, his white Vox-style 12-string, his lime-green sparkle Tele, TRís Foamy, his new red retro-Jetson Italia and, for the encore, a strat-style guitar with graphics from the TRís Utopia album painted beautifully on it, including the eye.

I moved to the foot of the stage about 2/3 through the set to stand in front of Elliot and remained through to the end. It was a fabulous show with an extraordinary set and effects. Amazing in the light that it was the first night of a tour. What more can I say? SEE THIS SHOW.

I was surprised to see the new CD on sale at the merchandise table (I quickly nabbed one), as it isnít officially released until the first week of June per Amazon. An album review compared More to songs from Liars, but I think itís more like a great late-era Utopia song.

The band appeared happy after the show and seemed to genuinely appreciate the crowd response although the hall was less than half full. Get out there and fill up the seats on this fantastic tour. You wonít regret it.

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5/12/2006 - Grand Casino - Tunica, MS

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