Cake's John McCrea is a modest front man.
Thanks to a two-set-long show and no opener, Madison concertgoers got a big slice of Cake at the Orpheum Theatre Friday night. "We'll have plenty of time to take care of whatever needs to be taken care of," said lead singer John McCrea after opening with "Sad Songs and Waltzes" and "Opera Singer."
Against a mountain-landscape backdrop and accompanied by a disco ball's wide-reaching glitter, the quintet from Sacramento, Calif. performed for more than two and a half hours. The group selected songs from its six-album discography, favoring the newest release, January's Showroom of Compassion.
Passionate Cake fans filled the sold-out venue with shrieks as each song began. "Should we dedicate this song to someone? How about your governor?" asked McCrea, to roaring agreement. The group followed the query with "Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle," an ode to the excessive, hypocritical life of a carefree rocker.
There was booing when McCrea returned to the subject of Gov. Scott Walker with what he considered a better-suited dedication: "Sick of You." McCrea, wearing a heavy fall jacket and hat, was not fazed by the reaction. "People are booing... this is entertainment, this is therapy for everyone," he said.
McCrea is a unique front man. He is modest, standing several feet from the microphone and shoving his hands in his pockets for a quick bow after each song. He also tends to bizarre, sometimes poorly articulated, banter. Cake spent several minutes forcing audience members to quietly raise their hands and answer a question about the tree onstage. It was an apple tree, and the lucky winner kept it with a promise to plant it and submit photos to the Cake website.
This gesture was overshadowed by every musician's worst nightmare: naming the wrong city in the thank-you's. After leading a sing-along to "Satan is my Motor," McCrea spoke about Milwaukee's powerful voices. The crowd was not pleased. "That's the first time I've ever done that," McCrea said after the boos and insults. He claimed he was overtired from traveling.
While the talk may have been off-kilter every so often, the group impressed musically. "Long Time," from Showroom of Compassion, featured a particularly attractive harmony from the backup vocalists, and the upbeat "Stickshifts and Safetybelts" was performed fervently to an electrified audience. The audience adored DiFiore's trumpet parts, and every song featured the unique rattle of McCrea's signature vibraslap.
The group's most notorious hits were left for last, including "Short Skirt/Long Jacket," "Never There," which closed the second set, and "The Distance," which concluded the encore.