In the seemingly endless genre of 80’s cover bands, you’ll find dozens of musicians that will perform the hits we all want (and don’t want) to hear, over and over (and over) again…the Top 20 tunes that have been done ad nauseam. One wonders if some bands are aware that there were more than 10 popular songs in that decade.
But then there’s Drive.
Formerly known as Talk of the Town, Drive is an ‘80s band that plays the stuff we actually want to hear. There are no tired Wham tunes on their set list nor any done-to-the-death Flashdance songs in their repertoire (ugh). But what we do get are the less-frequently covered hits by musicians that endured, songs that have earned our respect.
On October 8, Drive filled the Changing Times Pub in Farmingdale with the ‘80s done right, including a hearty dose of The Cars and Pretenders, the two bands for which Drive has made a name for themselves as a tribute band.
The band is made up of five seasoned musicians who do what they do well: Mary Beth Cronin is lead vocals/Ric Ocasek/Chrissie Hynde; Billy Reutlinger is on bass and vocals; Cosmo LoCricchio plays keyboards, bass and vocals; Jay Sharkey rocks on drums and vocals, and their newest member, Lou Conte, is on guitars. Most have worked with big names: Conte performed with Springsteen, Gary US Bonds, Ben E King, Luther Vandross, and 12 years with Tommy James, both on the road and in the studio. LoCricchio played with Chuck Berry and award-winning country music singer/songwriter Mary Lamont; Sharkey has performed with Billy Idol and Suzi Quatro, and Cronin has performed with members of Zebra and Vanilla Fudge.
You don’t often get the chance to hear Dire Straits covered – and really well, at that – by any local band. Drive brings it. When you hear their “Sultans of Swing” or “Money for Nothing” at a club, it’s not just background music; you actually stop, look and listen. The Stones’ “Hang Fire” and Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” were nice surprises, as was Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him.” Okay, sure, the band does throw in a couple of the tunes that we’ve come to expect from an 80’s band, like the essential “What I Like About You” and “Rock This Town” danceables that you can appreciate or simply use as a backdrop for your next trip to the bar. Fortunately, Drive gives you better than that, too, like Petty’s “American Girl” and Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes,” which still rocked even without a horn section.
The pièce de résistance, however, is Cronin’s transformation for the Cars and Pretenders songs. At the start of the Cars set, the gender-bending Cronin emerges as Ric Ocasek, with the requisite oversized black blazer, high top sneakers, teased and bi-leveled hair and Ocasek’s famous shades. Performing a plethora of Cars tunes, from “Shake It Up” to “Dangerous Type,” to “Candy-O” and more, Cronin struts offstage and into the audience, offering a serenade of “Magic” or “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” to an innocent bystander who might join Cronin on vocals for a bit.
For the Pretenders set, Cronin has Chrissie Hynde in the bag, with her eye-covering bangs, top hat, thick eye liner, white shirt and black skinny pants, and the appropriate punk attitude to complete the look. Best of all, her vocals are as much Hynde as they were Ocasek. Cronin pleads “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” growls her “Message of Love” and brings you back to Ohio, all in perfect Hynde fashion. It is said that we emulate those we admire – Cronin pays the ultimate tribute to her musical idols with passion and confidence.
There’s no doubt that Drive is the next best thing to seeing the Cars or the Pretenders live. Go see ‘em, and let the good times roll…
For upcoming Drive gigs visit www.Drivethecarstribute.com. Photo credit: Jim Senetto