Recorded from a German pop show, this DVD features 11 songs that epitomize the Boston quintet's late '70s sound. Includes group interviews, memorabilia, photo album and more! 2000/color/120 min/NR.
This complete, live, television concert, recorded for the long-running German pop music series Musikladen, captures the Cars in their late '70s ascendancy, offering ample evidence of the young Boston quintet's rock-solid performing skills and formidable instincts as writers and arrangers. Poised between arena-rock bombast and punk aggression, the Cars were canny, concise stylists who proudly unleashed hit singles in an album-dominated era, an achievement that could mislead serious-minded rock aesthetes to assume the band was a studio invention. In fact, their major-label deal arose only after the band had honed its playing in Beantown clubs and cracked local airwaves with self-produced prototypes of the songs that popped up on their self-titled debut album.
The 11 songs here tilt toward that collection, with a nod to its sequel, and all share the band's shrewd synthesis of tightly crafted songs that explore a tension between romantic yearning and neurotic anxiety. Principal songwriter Ric Ocasek swaps vocal leads with bassist Ben Orr, establishing their familiar yin and yang, with Ocasek mining neurosis while Orr plucks the heartstrings. David Robinson's muscular, uncluttered drumming transcends its frequent use of electronic drums, Greg Hawkes's keyboards deftly stretch the sci-fi possibilities of then- primitive synths, and not-so-secret weapon Elliot Easton, a southpaw guitarist, tightens the clockwork interplay between his versatile lead guitar and Ocasek's crisp rhythm work. If the band's choral work sounds thinner than on their recordings, it's less an indictment of the band than a measurement of how far producer Roy Thomas Baker carried the heavily layered vocal stamp he had refined with the Cars' labelmates, Queen.
The original program source confines the audio to a monaural mix, and the video transfer suffers from some intermittent raster patterns. Such artifacts are minor handicaps given the caliber of the performance. --Sam Sutherland