The New Cars Rev Up

Todd Rundgren concedes that he isn’t the most obvious choice to front a refurbished model of the new-wave band The Cars. But the ideaTT made a lot of sense to the venerable rocker. Rundgren, after all, had participated in “glomerations of musical notables” such as Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band. And he was looking for a new touring vehicle when guitarist Elliot Easton made the call last August.

“The most economical way [for me] to tour was to go out solo,” explains the 57-year-old Rundgren, best known for hits such as “Hello It’s Me” and “Can We Still Be Friends.” “But I wasn’t really writing material appropriate to these solo shows anymore, so I was doing the same show over and over again. That got tired for everyone involved.”

The reformulated lineup, dubbed The New Cars, also includes original keyboardist Greg Hawkes, former Tubes drummer Prairie Prince and Utopia bassist Kasim Sulton. (Drummer David Robinson, like vocalist/rhythm guitarist Ric Ocasek, opted out of a reunion; Cleveland-born bassist Benjamin Orr died of cancer in October 2000.) In the last 10 months, they have released a debut live CD (“It’s Alive”) that includes a new single (“Not Tonight”), recorded an album of new material and launched a 28-city tour that stops at Blossom Music Center June 4. Cars fans will not be disappointed by the choice of lead singer — Rundgren actually sounds a lot like Ocasek.

“I can adapt to a lot of different styles of music, if not actually ape the singer,” Rundgren says.

What he and the rest of the band have not adopted is the original quintet’s static performance style.

“They were famous for not moving, not saying anything in between songs, not smiling, and in some cases not even looking at each other,” Rundgren says. “We’re looking not just to come off as a band with an attitude. We’re trying to have some fun.”

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