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Weekend Preview May 12-16
Cultural Highlights of the Berkshire Weekend

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Elaine and I grew up together, but only just recently met....

Berkshire Living to Cease Publication
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[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
Review by Seth Rogovoy

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Review by Seth Rogovoy

[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
Review by Seth Rogovoy

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[MUSIC REVIEW] The New Cars, Tanglewood, July 4, 2007

The New Cars
July 4, 2007

Review by SETH ROGOVOY, editor-in-chief and critic-at-large, BERKSHIRE LIVING


(Lenox, Mass., July 4, 2007) – What on paper looked like a potential disaster turned out to be only half a disaster, and no one except Mother Nature can be blamed for that.

Tanglewood had a hard time coming up with a headliner for its annual Fourth of July festivities. First someone had the very bad taste of booking Journey, which even when they had their lead singer, Steve Perry, were of dubious quality. Then Journey opted out of their summer tour, citing fatigue, and a few weeks later announced they were firing Perry’s replacement and going on hiatus.

So in a mad scramble the BSO did what it could and booked an equally dubious choice (at least at first) – the New Cars, which appeared to be a tribute band to the Cars, the popular, Boston-based, early-‘80s new-wave band. With only two original members – guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes – and the key frontman, Ric Ocasek, wanting nothing to do with the reunion, this could have been
a real hack job.

As it turned out, with the seemingly curious substitution of Todd Rundgren for Ocasek at the helm, and the band fleshed out by two longtime pros of numerous bands, including ones led by Rundgren (drummer Prairie Prince, originally of the
Tubes, and bassist Kasim Sulton), in practice this turned out to be more of a supergroup playing Cars’ tunes – and a good share of material from various segments of Rundgren’s career.

And the final verdict – besides the turnout, which was probably the worst Fourth of July Tanglewood has ever experienced, due to the inclement weather and the weak
expectations for this show – was that the New Cars rocked as hard or even harder than the old Cars. Rundgren is a consummate entertainer and terrific singer who, although he didn’t go out of his way to mimic Ocasek’s style, made the familiar tunes real enough to thrill anyone who can wax nostalgic over “My Best Friend’s Girl” or “Let’s Go.”

There wasn’t a weak link in the group, either. Easton proved that the in many ways the Cars were a guitar band, and in spite of apparent technical trouble with his monitors throughout the show, he turned in solo after solo pitch perfect and right on the mark. Equally on top of the classic riffs was Hawkes, surrounded by his bank of keyboards looking like he hadn’t had so much fun in twenty years.

Sulton and Prince brought up the bottom with consummate professionalism, and Rundgren held it all together with a lively, fun stage presence that probably translated to a shed crowd a lot better than Ocasek’s minimalist, robot-like mien would have.

Openers James Montgomery Blues Band played a solid, half-hour set of powerful, hard-rocking roadhouse blues.

So damn that rain, and who knows? Maybe this is just the beginning? Will we someday see John Mellencamp fronting the E Street Band playing Bruce Springsteen songs? Or Gary Numan joining up with the members of Talking Heads minus David Byrne to revive that group’s corpus of work?

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