Cake go the distance in the rain

A review of Cake at the Lowell Summer Music Series on July 16, 2010

, Staff Writer

Although they haven’t released an album in nearly six years, Cake’s back catalogue is impressive enough to keep a steady supply of fans attending their shows. With a new album expected to be released in a few months, the band’s current bout of touring will surely be gearing up old and new fans alike. It’s no surprise, then, that Cake’s two-set affair at the Lowell Summer Music Series was filled almost entirely with well-known and loved songs, instantly recognizable to even the fairweather fans in the audience, and it speaks to the band’s tremendous live talent that so many endured the inclement weather for the show.

Because of the severe thunderstorm warning, Cake didn’t actually get on-stage until just before nine o’clock (the posted start time was 7:30). Surprisingly, spirits in the crowd remained high, even as the delay began to pass an hour. When the band did finally hit the stage, it was to a deafening cheer from the lawn in front of them, and dropped confidently into “Comfort Eagle”, a suitably heavy, fist-pumping anthem that wiped away any impatience that the delay had built.

From there, the concert continued as what was essentially a “best-of Cake”, showcasing the band’s most popular songs throughout their lengthy career. (Only one song from 2004’s Pressure Chief was performed, and its reception was lukewarm, comparatively). Most songs essentially became huge sing-alongs, which singer/guitarist John McCrea encouraged throughout the evening. “Sheep Go To Heaven”, in addition to a few others, was extended by a few minutes as the band repeated the chorus over and over again, allowing audience members to sing to their hearts’ content. He would divide the audience into groups – men and women, left and right side – and have them try to best each other in volume. Imitations McCrea’s trademark “whoops” and “yahs” popped up throughout the entire show, and some fans literally clapped their hands for the entire show.

It should be said that Cake’s live sound is an impressive thing to hear: this is a band that top-to-bottom plays perfectly in-sync with one another. Textural and rhythmic changes occurred without a hitch, and McCrea banter with the crowd was comfortable and endearing. The main “plot” of the evening – and apparently Cake does this somewhat regularly – was that, by the end of the show, the band would be giving away a tree to a fan who was willing to agree to a “35 year commitment”. Before the last two songs of the set, McCrea took a good fifteen minutes trying to find a person in the crowd who could tell him what percent of the world’s population had running water in their homes (35), which admittedly did start to wear on after a while.

The show ended with a series of Cake’s most famous songs: “Mexico” and “Guitar” brightened things up before the band ended the set with “Never There”, McCrea commenting that ending with a sad song was appropriate, given the weather. Cake came back for an encore of “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” (which had been called out in between nearly every song prior) and, of course, “The Distance”, which simply everyone knew the words to.

Cake doesn’t feel like a nostalgia act, in spite of essentially being a 90s band: they play with a certain confident swagger that lets you know they’re really in it for love of the game, and not simply to cash in on the kids that grew up with them. Their new album should put them back in the spotlight, and with a live show as strong as Cake’s is, there’s no reason they can’t be expected to continue to draw crowds for years to come.

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