Cinders and ashes at the Metro, 1982

Between the tight instrumentation, powerful vocals, and sizzling energy, this short set is a real barn-burner! Today marks the 39th anniversary of the night The Cars showed up as surprise guests at the Metro in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 7, 1982, so let’s take a closer look.

We’ll start with this one lone video:

Though I am optimistic that the band’s whole set was filmed (it had to have been, right???), this is currently the only available footage for us Cars fans. It remains on my list of concerts I hope will someday surface from someone’s basement VHS collection.

Along with this visual remnant, we have some (only 3!) photos that have circulated from that night. They were taken by Michael Grecco, and they.are.GORGEOUS. Feast your eyes!


NERD NOTES

This performance is generally pinned to a Toys for Tots charity gig, but I was going over my notes as I was getting ready to upload the audio of their full six-song set (link below) and I discovered that that might not be the case. Let me lay out what I’ve got for you.

Apparently there was a charity show scheduled to benefit a punk/new wave music magazine called New York Rocker. The publication was in financial straits and was trying to scratch up an infusion of cash. This clip from The Boston Globe on December 6, 1982, sets the stage:

The next we hear about it shows up here: a Boston Globe mention on December 10, 1982, where it’s revealed that The Cars were a surprise guest at the NY Rocker benefit.

One more blip of that benefit, confirming that the purpose was to financially support NY Rocker, appeared just a couple of days later:

Inkedconfirming benefit concert for the New York Rocker magazine The_Boston_Globe_Sun__Dec_12__1982_ cropped_LI marked
The Boston Globe ~ December 12, 1982

Seems consistent to me. And judging by the publication covers, I could guess that that magazine would be something Ric in particular would be happy to support. In fact, it looks like The Cars themselves might have been included in at least one issue; I’ll have to see if I can track that down at some point.

As for the Toys for Tots benefit, that was a real thing, and The Cars were definitely involved… to a certain extent. They were co-sponsors of the annual Christmas party at the Metro, along with the venue and Warner Elektra Atlantic, where the only price of admission was the donation of a toy for needy children. Boston photographer Derek Szabo saved his 1982 invite and was so kind to share it with me. How cute is this?

 

The festivities included an hour-long open bar and live music, but it does not appear that The Cars were on the roster of performers. Check out this clipping from The Boston Globe, December 17, 1982:

Of course, it is entirely possible that The Cars did play at that party on December 22; I just haven’t been able to find anything to confirm it. If they did, I feel certain that it is different than the “Candy-O” performance footage we see above. 


So let’s get back to that December 7 show. For the most part, the set list has a gritty punk vibe that seems perfectly suited to an audience of New York Rocker readers. Fortunately for us, an audience recording of the full six songs The Cars performed that night has been preserved. It’s not the greatest quality, but it’s a treasure nonetheless.

The band opens with “Out of Control,” a previously unpublished tune that would show up on Ric’s first solo album, Beatitude, apparently released at the end of the month. [A little pet peeve of mine here: another instance of Ric showcasing his solo work during a Cars show, an opportunity apparently not given to Ben or Elliot in later years. Grr!] 

From there they rev things up with a raucous cover of Iggy Pop’s “Funtime,” and it sounds like all the guys are really enjoying themselves. And Elliot’s solo is blazing! EE continues to drive the show as they blast through  “Take What You Want,” a concert staple that never made it to vinyl. Interestingly, I believe this gig is the last time they played it for an audience.

Now we get to “Candy-O” which, of course, sounds a bit muted compared to the more professional video capture. Still, it’s pretty great! If you recall in the footage, at the end of the song the guys are taking off their guitars and preparing to exit the stage after being on for less than 20 minutes. So now brace yourself: a member of the audience, who is apparently unsatisfied with the very short set, begins booing in protest. Booing! Loudly. And complaining that it’s a ripoff. I mean, I can understand the guy’s disappointment, but it still grates on my nerves to hear him booing my band. Ugh.

Anyway, thankfully, The Cars do return and treat the enthusiastic audience to two more energetic gems.

I love love love the dizzying version of “Let’s Go,” and again, Elliot is just on fire. The big finish comes with “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” and please, I am begging you, do NOT miss Elliot’s sassy little guitar riff at 26:46. If an attitude can be summarized in four seconds of music, there it is right there. So freaking great! I swear, there had to be cinders and ashes floating to the ground as those guys took their leave. Holy wow.

Your turn to listen in! Be sure to share your thoughts below.

UPDATE December 11, 2021: A reader pointed out to me the similarity of Elliot’s “sassy little riff” at 26:46 to the “Wake Me Up” demo at 3:08. It blew my mind! Take a listen:

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7 thoughts on “Cinders and ashes at the Metro, 1982

  1. Great stuff! Did I hear a rated R lyrical version of “flucked around and waited?” I agree that Ric’s solo stuff being mixed in with Car-play wasn’t fair as he didn’t allow the other members to do so. None-the-less, I always liked Keep It Out of Control and hearing EE on the guitar is a real bonus. I wish some quality audio of this show would spill out of Ric’s vault somehow, that would be epic! Thanks for another great report SPJ!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha — yes, I think you did! In Lyrics and Prose, Ric penned the lyrics as “you f*cked around and waited,” but on the actual recording (and on the liner notes for Beatitude) he says “flucked.” That guy!

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  2. Man, great stuff! To see the names of Sleepy LaBeef, Alan Vega and the Del Fuegos and bands like that makes me think back to those good ole days. WIsh I could have a couple of days to go back in time and just smile about it all. The Cars were a great band and that’s why I’m a lifetime fan. They were local to me, had that New Wave vibe and I was hooked. Thanks for posting as always Donna !!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 4 Alarm Fire for sure!!! Wow and wow some more. Interesting way Ben sang Candy O here, monotone, like a carry over from Funtime – and it looks like Ric was getting a kick out of it, the way he kept looking over at him.
    It is interesting to see Ric in such a good mood and having a good time.
    How lucky is it that we got Candy O as the video.
    Digging up gold each and every time! Thank YOU!!!!
    Sounds like a possible scheduling issue with them getting squeezed in last minute –
    would love to know the logistics of that.

    What a great opportunity to hear the band in a setting like that – not the big arenas where you had to please the more superficial audience. SO GREAT!!!!
    It is like the El Macambo concert.

    Any live performance of one of my all time faves Candy O, just shakes me to my core. I love that song so much it represents a chaos and a charge that is like nothing else to me.

    Ric’s song – I’m sorry but if I were there, I would have been wishing for the end of the song by minute 2.
    and I am with you on the Grrr! part of Ric’s inability to embrace his friend’s music.

    And the way the encore was organic!
    “We only came prepared with 3!!! ” They didn’t need to be prepared. These guys were born prepared!
    Instrumentally that is- seems like Ric messed up lyrics on You’re AllI Got Tonight.
    I can imagine them scrambling backstage for what 3 more songs to play!!
    Let’s Go – guaranteed to fire up the audience!

    And yes the little rif from Wake me Up!! Clear as day.

    I am sure you noticed that in some live performances whoever sets the pace (would that have been David?)
    of the song seems to me to be going just a bit too fast. Right? This is how this performance was to me. Is the David who sets the pace?

    Thanks Donna – this made my blue mood day – into an Orangey Sky day..100%

    Liked by 1 person

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