In addition to TR, the line up – now going since the mid 2006 – included original Cars' members Elliott Easton and Greg Hawkes, along with Prairie Prince from the Tubes. Long-time TR/Utopia bassist Kasim Sultan was absent, currently touring with Meat Loaf was the rumor I heard at the venue. Rotating with Kasim is Atom Ellis, founding member of San Francisco’s “thrash funk” band Psychefunkapus; Ellis also jammed with Link Wray for a few years. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)
Long story short, I got to attend the VIP Meet ‘n’ Greet. At the proverbial last minute, my friend Tom M. and his state fair connections secured a couple of VIP passes. In addition to some free beer and food, we were able to parade through the reception line about a half an hour before the scheduled show time. No drinks, no autographs, and no personal cameras were allowed in the hallway. So Tom and I, along with about 30 or 40 others got to pose within our respective groups with the band for a photo taken by the state fair official. (Don't have the photographic evidence yet...) Tom was able to quickly ask TR about the Hello People. (Don’t remember the exact exchange.) Todd then complemented me on my target-graphic Who T-shirt and I asked him about the new solo project. “Next spring” was the last thing I heard as we were shuffled along to make room for the next photo op. “Thanks for everything, Todd,” I said as I was directed out the door.
The show started about 7:15. “Let’s Go” kicked off the concert. Todd’s energy level appeared high with the occasional windmill and bouncing around. His voice sounded strong. He made local references to the University with his “Hello Huskers” greeting. In addition, TR joked with the crowd about “tipping cows” and how “they well they look in the twilight.” Before “Candy O” he said, “If we were one of those kind of bands, I would say this next song is for the ladies, but all of our songs are for the ladies. So, guys, this one’s for you!”
The New Cars raced through their already established 14-song show. I had a copy of the set list with me, having followed some of the shows on the trconnection.com and thenewcars.com websites. When they opened with “Let’s Go” instead of “Hello Again,” I had a feeling that they were not going to play “Warm” and “Not Tonight.” OK, I can maybe forgive the absence of “Warm,” a slow song, but “Not Tonight." This was the song they played on so many late night talk shows and proved to be a great melding of the old Cars sound with a particularly strong TR vocal. Why, why, why would they exclude this new song from the set list from ANY of their shows? It’s new product; please promote it; please play it!
Fortunately for me, I was able to take some salvation in the Todd tunes. Unfortunately, “I Saw the Light” didn’t sound too good with the distorted bass that cursed three or four songs at the beginning of the show. (I honestly thought they might stop and start again. Why is it that so many sound engineers at rock concerts appear to be legally deaf? Shouldn’t this whole audio quality thing be figured out by show time? Arghh.) Next, using the VIP pass still in my pocket, I made my way from my seat to the front for a close-up look for what was to be a stellar rendition of “Black Maria.” (The submitted photo of TR playing the solo is from that song.) Hearing this gem performed live is why I’ve been a fan for more than 25 years. It was worth getting through the sound-plagued earlier part of the show to hear this nugget from Something/Anything.
After a couple more Cars songs, the obligatory “Bang the Drum All Day” hit the airwaves. I’m glad TR and the band have fun with this one, what with the acoustic start followed by the electric finish. Like most rabid TR fans, he can continue to de-construct this one till it becomes unrecognizable. Last, but certainly not least, was the old Nazz tune “Open My Eyes,” sandwiched in the encore between “Just What I Needed” and “Good Times Roll.”
The crowd appeared quite enthusiastic and seemed to enjoy themselves, regardless of the early technical issues. Not sure how much we can complain really; the $6 state fair fee gate fee is a bargain for these “free” shows. (The Joan Jett & the Blackhearts concert was two days earlier and got on without any technical/sound problems.) Plus, due to my extremely good fortune of crossing paths with Tom M, I finally got to “meet ‘n’ greet” my rock ‘n’ roll hero. When given a choice between seeing Todd and hearing him do old Cars tunes – with a couple of TR hits tossed in for good measure – and NOT seeing nor hearing him, I'll obviously take the former. Just what I needed is OH singing more Todd – or taking in a New Cars concert with more new New Cars songs.
The Set: Let’s Go, Shake It Up, Best Friend’s Girl, Candy O, ISTL, Dangerous Type, Moving In Stereo, All Mixed Up, Black Maria, You Might Think, Drive, BTDAD, You’re All I’ve Got, Bye Bye Love. Encore: Just What I Needed, Open My Eyes, Good Times Roll.
Kim Theesen, Lincoln, Nebraska