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Who Wants Some Cake?

Loyal Fans, Novices Alike Treated to Fantastic Concert

By Helana Kadyszewski

staff writer


Orpheum Theatre

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

By some accident of the music gods (and the charity of a few fine loyal Cake fans here at MIT,) I landed a sweet seat at the Orpheum for Wednesday night’s Cake concert. And well, let’s just say it was worth the $33 ticket price and the aggressive (if not uncomfortable) frisking I received from the Orpheum’s security guards. Cake fans, if you missed this show, stop reading now. It will only hurt.

Those of us who arrived shortly after 7:30 p.m. were greeted with a six-song set from guest openers “Spoon” (very Beck-ish if I do say so myself.) The group, out of Texas, was received about as warmly as any prefix to Cake might be, but were nothing short of mediocre. A 45-minute set change intermission followed; the disco ball (nice touch Cake, nice touch) was hoisted, the stench of alcohol ripened in the refreshment hall, and ticket-holders were herded to their seats.

To kill time, I roamed the front rows hoping to find that single, unsold seat and a security guard I might be able to influence with my feminine wiles. No luck. Meanwhile, though, I couldn’t help but notice the range in age and style amongst the concert attendees. Expecting to see a young crowd of your typical “alt. rock fans” I was quite beside myself when I returned to my assigned seat and a rather plump middle aged fellow (wearing a Yankees cap no less....) plopped himself next to me to announce, “They better freaking play “Daria”... they didn’t at the last concert ... woohooo, I love these guys. Do Daria!”

Cake’s fab five of John McCrea (guitar/vocals), Todd Roper (drums), Gabe Nelson (bass), and Xan McCurdy (lead guitar), took the stage shortly after 9:00 p.m. amid impatient chants of “Cake Cake Cake ...” With the stage still dark, they opened with “Arco Arena,” a powerful instrumental from their newest album, Comfort Eagle.

From there, the rest of the concert was a crisp execution of every song any Cake fan would hope to see the band perform live. Count ‘em: 14. The audience was on its feet for the duration.

Although I had heard that you don’t have to be a Cake fan to enjoy a Cake concert, it was clear on Wednesday night that the majority of the attendees were loyal lyric-memorizing fans. In fact, audience participation was the theme for the evening. Lead singer McCrea not only welcomed the audience to chime in on “Sheep go to Heaven and Goats go to Hell,” “Frank Sinatra” and others, but he jokingly ridiculed the weak voices of the balcony seatholders. Typically I’m not a huge fan of sing-songy concerts, (after all, I didn’t pay $33 to hear the audience’s rendition of “Comanche”) but McCrea conducted his adopted choir with such expertise that I caught myself belting out a few as well ... ok, maybe more than a few.

On “Opera Singer,” though, another tune from Cake’s latest album, McCrea sang alone, “I am an opera singer / I stand on painted tape / It tells me where I’m going / and where to throw my cape.” Sporting a vintage army jacket and baseball cap instead of the cape and viking horns, McCrea crooned, “After each performance -- people stand around and wave -- just to tell me that they love my voice -- Just to tell me that I’m great...” And after an 80-minute sampling of songs from all four of their albums, including their latest hit single, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket,” that is just what everyone did.

Then McCrea thanked Boston for choosing Cake, and led the band off the stage.

Anticipating their encore, my frustrated friend, shouted “Daria! Daria! I wanna hear Daria!” with intensifying despair.

The crowd, still on its feet, welcomed Cake back to the stage for a brief encore, which included an intense rendition of their smash hit from 1994, “The Distance.”

For those of you who have never heard of Cake, do yourselves a favor, don’t ask a Cake fan, “So what kind of music does Cake play?” It’s really frustrating to try and describe their “genre.” Cake’s repertoire includes touches of folk, hip-hop, soul, funk and country. But such a description hardly does the band justice. Cake is just Cake, and they know how to put on a concert. It’s no wonder they’ve achieved such popularity by word of mouth since McCrea, a Sacramento native, founded the band in 1991, and since they released their self-produced debut album “Motorcade of Generosity,” in 1994.

It was beautiful -- high-quality Orpheum acoustics, a great set list, none of that annoying self-promotional chit-chat that chews up valuable music time. Add to that the curiously attractive monotone stylings of John McCrea and the trademark trumpeting of Vincent di Fiore and you have a theater full of happy Cake fans, with the exception of perhaps one, who will have to catch Cake at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC this Friday if he hopes to hear “Daria.”