The Cars opened their 1980 tour last night at Merriweather Post Pavillion, and at least one member of the sellout crowd wanted to make the evening memorable. Just before show time, a man wearing nothing but a smile came barreling down the aisle and attempted a vailant leap to the stage. He never made it; the Cars eventually did and they weren't traveling so light.

The stage looked like a construction site. Speakers and lights everywhere. A five-foot fence was perched on the risers, Behind it an enormous aluminum facdae housed a projection screen programmed to cast a harsh glow on the proceedings.

Unfortunuately, all this hardware only made the Car's recent songs sound that much more mechanical. Little of what they performed from their new album measured up to the precise and tricky rhythms of "Let's Go" and "Just What I Needed." Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr did justice to those songs, but they couldn't overcome the droning repitition of much of their newer-material.

But the time they reached the rousing encore of "My Best Friend's Girl," their new album was just a sour memory with but a single song to recommend it: something called "Touch and Go" -- not a bad description of the Car's performance last night.