(Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI - May 18th, 2011)
CAKE, the alternative rock band from Sacramento, CA are noted for their idiosyncratic approach to music. The band first became popular in the late 1990s with their album Fashion Nugget, which spawned several singles - including one that would be their highest-charting single ever, 'The Distance.'
And although the band has switched out several members in the years since their debut album, CAKE's musical style is characterized by the one constant; the one ever-present - lead singer John McCrea and his half-sung, half-spoken vocals and lyrical wordplay.
Tonight, in front of a sold out, packed house, as soon as the introduction about all cell phones off, all photographers to be hunted down and thrown out, the instrumental overhead music begins! Some 7 minutes later it is still playing, but then it crescendos, out come the band (to an incredible bout of applause), and they go straight into 'Sad Songs & Waltzes.'
Standing in front of a large mountain scenery backdrop, wearing white gloves, a hat over his eyes, and an outdoor jacket, McCrea literally conducts his band of merry men throughout each song. 'Opera Singer' is yet another way he shows this to its fullest, as his arms move with the beat, his "orchestra" behind him following along intently. 'Mustache Man (Wasted)' continues the college music flashback fest, before McCrea speaks for the first time: "We are Cake ... we are here to serve you, Detroit."
'Shadow Stabbing' is very well received, 'Long Time' also, before McCrea stops the show to introduce his on-stage tree! As he does so, the crowd clap. "That's got to be a first in rock 'n roll," he laughs, "an audience clapping for a tree!" He then explains he will be giving the tree away at some point in the show, but that in the meantime a yellow Cake tshirt would have to do!
McCrea then intro's the next song by saying, "This one was written while driving an automobile," which, of course means we then get 'Stickshifts And Safetybelts.' Next up is 'Sick Of You' which soon turns into McCrea halving the audience down the middle; getting them to "voice off" against each other on differing chorus lyrics - for a full 10 minutes!
Back after an intermission, the reasoning for such a thing overly explained by McCrea; just in case anyone didn't understand the need, and 'Love You Madly' is the first song sung. The massively-popular 'Sheep Go to Heaven' (a song that also references Dionysus' half man/half goat drunken companions!) brings with it an en mass crowd sing-along. McCrea then takes off his coat and intro's a song from their debut album, the total band jam 'Jolene.'
But, and weirdly, it is now that McCrea stops the show again, and once again for the on-stage tree giveaway! Bringing up the house lights, it is quite easily the strangest thing I have ever seen happen at a concert. For McCrea then takes 12 minutes to speak about the tree, orchestrating a contest right there and then for the correct audience answer to what the tree actually is to win it! It is, quite simply, a mind-numbing 12 minutes to behold! (FYI: For the record, it was a peach tree!)
'Federal Funding,' the opening track on their brand new album, Showroom of Compassion is next before McCrea speaks once more, "Thank you for remembering we exist!" And then the final song of the already overly-long two-set piece, the heartily-welcomed 'Never There' is brought forth.
CAKE's first encore song is 'Short Skirt/Long Jacket' which features a funky trumpet bass line, and has subsequently become the theme song to the TV series 'Chuck.' They follow that up with a cover of Perren and Fekaris's (written), but Gloria Gaynor sung, 'I Will Survive.' Finally, after nearly two and a half hours, they bring the show to a close with the second single from their second album, the massive radio play hit, 'The Distance.'
Review by: Russell A. Trunk
Principal Photo Credit: David Turcotte