The New Cars, Tahoe Review 12-9-6

Review by Guy Daugherty (Switch to

I'd mused in the past if Todd might ever play South Shore. But I figured the venue might not be up his street, or his fans may not fit the customer profile the casinos prefer, or maybe he's still just too much a niche product for them to consider. So it was with no small delight to find that The New Cars were making another loop through this area, with Harrah's on the schedule. That it was going to be in early December was only a dimly-glowing yellow light at the time ("Paging 'Donner', party of 40, now serving.... each other"). Although they were also coming to the Fillmore and Santa Rosa, I'd rather take a run up 88 and over the mountains any time I can make an excuse to.

We left early from Galt for the 130-mile run. The weather for the previous two weeks had been crystal-clear, and of course on the 8th a small system was at the head of a larger one. The run up was perfect, with dry roads and stunningly light traffic. We parked behind Harrah's and hit the Mont Bleu (the old Caesar's Palace) for their smorgasbord, and headed over to Will Call ("Picking up two, please, last name 'Call', first name, 'Will'").

It was the first time I'd been to a show at Harrah's South Shore Room. It's a 1000-seat theater, and it wasn't much shy of being full of all we old people. I'd asked the younger couple next to me if they were there for Todd, and they said no, they used to be Cars fans. I promised them they'd not be disappointed. The show was scheduled for 7:30, and by 7:40 we were rolling with The New Cars, with no warm-up group.

What a terrific ride. We had a great two-hour trip with the crew. Although Kasim wasn't along, Atom Ellis was doing a fine job on bass. We're working on the caffeine thing for his sister. The only thing the substitution really "cost" us was not hearing Kasim singing "Drive" (dammit), but that meant we got to hear Todd for one more song.

Now, then. This Easton fellow and the guitar. Good lord. I mean, sure, we're all Toddheads, and he's in the top of the list with an axe, but Elliot was nothing shy of astounding.

Greg Hawkes stage left on keyboards, just chilling along and looking like he's having the time of his life, bringing out the sax and rattling the rafters while probably adding more sound and feel to the music than anyone ever suspects. He always seems to have a glint in his eye like it was his idea for the kid to touch his tongue to the frozen flagpole.

And my favorite never-met pal back there on the drums, Prairie looked menacingly comical in his white-framed wraparounds, doing the job of ten mortal men. We didn't get his whole multi-media stage design as was so stunning in Reno (We did have two screens up and video, with effects), but we got his vibrant assault on the conga for the round of "Nobody-Gets-Out-Of-Here-Without-Hearing 'Bang the Drum'".

And then, Todd. I think he was pleasantly surprised at the turnout, especially with the weather forecast- and he warned us that if we got stuck in the storm, to "stay in the car!"

It's fun to see Todd in this group. Keen Todd veterans are used to his casual approach to concerts, and we don't much notice when he flubs the lyrics to "Hello, It's Me", or loses track of notes on one or another instrument. It's part of the, "Hey, come on by, I'm gonna be doing some music and you're welcome to listen" ethos of the man, and why he's so engaging to turn out for. But he's not like this with The New Cars. I won't be so blasphemous to say he's serious about it, but you can tell that every member of the band is aware they're on a mission and that Doing It Right is a key part of it. They never seem labored, but Todd comes across like he's visiting a respected relative and is on his best behavior- and is in no hurry to finish dinner and get home. After the Reno show, I thought it was the best live band work I'd seen. And I'll say now that they're better than then.

They played two full hours, and the audience was right with them the entire time.

After the show, the couple next to me stopped me and said, "You were right!" They were beaming.

We left the casino shortly after and headed the ol' Talon over the pass in light snow. Climbing up Echo Summit, my buddy asked if I thought they'd be taking a bus to SF, and I guessed they'd probably lease some corporate jet time instead. The snow got serious, then really serious, then thank-god-for-AWD, oh, lookit-the-pickup-doing-loops serious. If they didn't close the road (US 50) right behind us, it couldn't have been ten cars later than that.

When I got online Sunday, I found out from Debbie that the SF show at the Fillmore had been cancelled- the bus couldn't make the drive through the storm.

Other reviews for The New Cars
12/09/2006 - Harrah's Tahoe - Lake Tahoe, NV

Other reviews for overall The New Cars

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