The Cars returned to their airtight New Wave hits on Saturday when they performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland.
The band opened with “You Might Think,” a brisk Top Ten single from 1984, which gave guitarist Elliot Easton a chance to play a crackerjack solo. The band then downshifted to stomp imposingly through “Moving in Stereo,” which originally appeared on their 1978 debut album.
This deceleration set the stage for “Just What I Needed,” the Cars’ first hit, which remains one of their most indelible releases. The crowd roared as soon as the band started the track’s chugging opening riff, and audience members jumped at the chance to shout the single’s rushing refrain: “Just what I needed!” On all three songs, Weezer’s Scott Shriner played bass in place of the Cars’ co-founder Benjamin Orr, who died in 2000.
The Killers’ Brandon Flowers inducted the band into the Rock Hall earlier in the evening. The Cars have been eligible to join the institution since the 2004 ceremony and were previously nominated in 2016 and 2017. All five of the band’s members – vocalist-guitarist Ric Ocasek, guitarist Easton, keyboardist Greg Hawkes, drummer David Robinson and the group’s late bassist, Orr – were included. Orr died in 2000 of pancreatic cancer; Hawkes now handles the bass parts.
“It’s certainly a wonderful feeling to be accepted by peers and [when] you see the people that are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, who gets inducted, it’s a positive feeling that you get,” Ocasek told Rolling Stone in December. “I think it’s kind of a big thing for me and the band. I know Ben would have been flipped out by it. … It’s certainly a very positive thing.”
As soon as he learned the Cars were getting in, the frontman knew that he wanted to play hits at the induction ceremony. “I could go out there and try and be esoteric and play obscure songs from the records, but I think they’ll want to hear something they know,” Ocasek said. “That’s what people would expect. There’s no reason to play something they wouldn’t expect.”