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New Cars shift nicely from old to new

Reprinted from late editions of yesterday's Globe.

Made up of parts both fresh and vintage , the New Cars might not be in mint condition , but they proved Wednesday night at the Bank of America Pavilion that they're still worth taking for a spin.

Automotive puns aside -- and new singer Todd Rundgren used a bunch Wednesday night -- the New Cars gave fans what they wanted in a vigorous one hour, 45-minute set: pristine replications of the Hub-spawned band's still impressive string of new wave pop hits from ``My Best Friend's Girl" to ``Just What I Needed."

In the many moments when their own pleasure was evident, the band members got just what they needed as well, both financially and musically.

As he does on the New Cars' recent release , Rundgren pulled off the neat trick of sounding like original Cars vocalist Ric Ocasek while still injecting some of his own soulful throb into songs like ``Hello Again" and ``Let's Go."

Bassist-vocalist Kasim Sulton -- who, like mighty timekeeper Prairie Prince, has worked with Rundgren in the past -- was less successful with the songs, such as ``Drive," originally sung by the late bassist Ben Orr, but it's hard to pinpoint why. He sounded just fine and hit the high notes on ``All Mixed Up , " but it felt discomfiting in a way that Rundgren didn't.

Original members Greg Hawkes and snazzy guitarist Elliot Easton -- who was playing with a broken clavicle -- were clearly jazzed to dig into the songs again.

Easton re-created his solos perfectly but not bloodlessly , and also went off on some blazingly good tangents , especially during ``You're All I've Got Tonight." Hawkes kept pouring on the hard candy coating of his sneakily seductive synth riffs on tunes like ``Moving in Stereo" and the new ``Not Tonight."

Rundgren played a few of his solo hits , including a ukulele-fueled ``Bang on the Drum All Day" that didn't quite counter the dismal weather but was cute nonetheless. In perhaps the night's most bizarre segue, Rundgren's blistering, almost heavy metal guitar epic ``Black Maria" -- which stopped traffic for some but sent Rundgren fanatics into ecstasy -- was followed by the frothy bounce of ``You Might Think." Talk about grinding gears.

Blondie faced a tougher time in the first slot, playing to a half-empty hall for the first few songs. Drummer Clem Burke remains the band's tiger in the tank, and Debbie Harry still sounds pretty terrific and looks icy cool, even in a dreadful neon lime green dress and track pants.

The sextet zipped through 90 minutes, hitting all the highs -- the staccato ``Rapture" rap, menacing stalker anthem ``One Way or Another , " and cooing ``Heart of Glass" -- and a few left - field treats including a gauzy cover of Roxy Music's lush ``More Than This" and a muscular take of ``In the Flesh" that begs for a re release.

Sarah Rodman can be reached at

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