Bare Bones Approach Works Well for Indie Rockers Cake

Concert Review

click to enlarge Bare Bones Approach Works Well for Indie Rockers Cake
Jon Lichtenberg
Some bands need a killer light show and a deafening sound system to put on a good live show. And some bands need to have put out new albums in order to tour. Not Cake, which last released a studio album in 2011. This veteran indie rock band prides itself on its “rinky dink” sound, and singer-guitarist John McCrea and Co. were in good form last night at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica as they played for just over two hours to a crowd of about 2500. You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here

The band played two sets and while the second set was arguably the livelier of the two, the pensive opening set had its moments as well. Wearing a trucker hat, jeans and flannel shirt, McCrea looked more like a construction worker than a rock star. But that’s part of his Everyman appeal. The show’s opening number “Sad Songs & Waltzes” was played like it was a country waltz and its somber lyrics suggested McCrea, who’s known for being a bit of a smart ass, has a sensitive side. While most pop and rock songs about Mexico tend to reference sitting on the beach drinking beer or sucking down margaritas, Cake’s “Mexico” featured perky trumpet and harmony vocals as McCrea crooned, "I had a match,/But she had a lighter, I had a flame, But she had a fire."

“We figured we’d skip the opening act,” McCrea said during the initial set, adding that the band was essentially opening for itself. “After a break, you can reflect upon what you experienced during intermission and return with renewed enthusiasm.” The first set ended with a rowdy rendition of “Sick of You,” a tune McCrea introduced as a “negative song” before successfully leading a sing-a-long after dividing the audience into two sections.

The second set started with a tree giveaway. Yep, the guys brought a live tree onto the stage and then gave it to the patron who guessed what kind of tree it was (a Fiji Apple, in case you’re wondering). It was a good gimmick and, as McCrea put it, gave the band reason to come back to town (to check on the tree). That second set was littered with Cake’s most popular tunes and the band picked up the pace a bit too. A jittery rendition of “Sheep Go to Heaven” included a bit of noisy trumpet and an acoustic guitar solo at the song’s end. The enthusiastic audience banged away on the bleachers until the band returned for an encore that included “Short Skirt/Long Jacket.” 
Like this story?
SCENE Supporters make it possible to tell the Cleveland stories you won’t find elsewhere.
Become a supporter today.

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
Scroll to read more Music News articles

Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.