NEW YORK — [artist id="3900"]Cake[/artist] are the kind of band it's easy to think you know well — songs like "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" and their "I Will Survive" cover still pop up regularly in ads and soundtracks — and easy to love for their blend of regular-guy sound with clever lyrics and off-beat instrumentation. But in concert, anyone who, say, owns only four of their albums, will never be mistaken for a diehard. No, the superfans know every single word of every early album deep cut. Still, when the cult faves hit Irving Plaza on Tuesday night, frontman John McCrea made sure everyone felt like they belonged.
Dressed in a fedora, T-shirt, hoodie and rugged jacket, the bearded McCrea looked like a buddy you'd just invited over for a beer in your Brooklyn living room. After kicking off the show with 2001's "Comfort Eagle" and a couple of tracks from their upcoming new album, Showroom of Compassion, the singer launched into a deadpan banter that really made it feel like he was everyone's friend too.
"We are just hanging out together, with the tree and microphones," McCrea said, pointing to the small evergreen onstage that he later gave away to an audience member — part of an old Cake concert tradition. When one fan got a little too comfortable with the band and threw a paper airplane missive at the stage, McCrea gently reminded her, "I can't really read long notes right now; I'm kind of playing a show."
Mixed in with several of the new Compassion songs — which stick to the trademark Cake sound of head-nodding rhythm, nasally guitar and Vince DeFiore's brilliant trumpet solos, occasionally punctuated by McCrea on the vibraslap — were a whole lot of the favorites. The pleasantly small, sold-out venue was filled with the sound of fans singing along with the likes of "Frank Sinatra," "Say It All" and "Friend Is a Four Letter Word."
"Congratulations to all of you singing along, you just got the equivalent of a beer from endorphins," McCrea said after a rousing rendition of "Sheep Go to Heaven."
And they weren't just singing with the classics. During the encore, following their cover of "War Pigs," when the band at last performed new single "Sick of You," McCrea began directing everyone as a choir. One side of the room was the "escapists," who sang "I want to fly away," while the other side was instructed to chant "I'm so sick of you, so sick of me, I don't want to be with you."
It was an instant favorite of the happy crowd, but the show's closer, their 1996 hit "The Distance," was perfectly calculated to send everyone home humming and smiling.
Showroom of Compassion, Cake's first studio album in six years, is due out on January 11.