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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

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Lead singer John McCrea's droll lyrics and deadpan delivery made for a sweet Cake concert Saturday night.
Lead singer John McCrea's droll lyrics and deadpan delivery made for a sweet Cake concert Saturday night.
McCrea's interactions with the crowd were filled with the same dry sense of humor.
McCrea's interactions with the crowd were filled with the same dry sense of humor.

Veteran band Cake satisfies the musical taste buds

When it comes to the delicious dessert food, most people would prefer cake to be moist. The band, Cake, on the other hand, is notoriously dry, especially lead singer John McCrea's droll lyrics and deadpan delivery. And the jam-packed crowd Saturday night at the Miller Lite Oasis wouldn't have it any other way.

After joining together in the early '90s, the alternative band gained a substantial audience with their 1994 debut album, "Motorcade of Generosity." The group continued to grow in popularity, mainly thanks to their insanely catchy 1996 hit song, "The Distance," and the funny and inventive music video for "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" off of 2001's "Comfort Eagle."

Cake hasn't quite been able to match their mainstream success from the late '90s and early '00s, though not for a lack of effort. They've released three albums since "Comfort Eagle," most recently last year's "Showroom of Compassion," a self-produced album. McCrea spent some time talking about the "risky" album and thanking the crowd for helping to make it happen between songs Saturday evening.

The audience was equally thankful for Cake's entertaining and musically satisfying 80-minute set. After "Stickshifts and Safetybelts," a surprisingly quiet though still enjoyable opener, the band began to perform in manner fitting of the large stage. "Opera Singer" and "Frank Sinatra" both got the crowding moving and bobbing their heads with their jamming beats and pulsing, deep guitar. The following number, "Love You Madly," brought a nice folk vibe to the stage as well.

Much of the reason for Cake's success Saturday night was a well-balanced audio mix that brought out all of the band's unique sounds. Vince DiFiore's trumpet solos on "Love You Madly" and their encore performance of "The Distance" sounded just as triumphant as they do on the records, and McCrea's twangy acoustic guitar added a fun bite to "Frank Sinatra."

The best part of the music was the vocals, both by McCrea and his harmonious band mates. McCrea's particular brand of deadpan delivery particularly shined. The vocalist even got close to a more typical kind of singing on "Bound Away," a slow jam that served as the group's second encore song.

The mix also allowed Cake's cleverly dry and sarcastically goofy lyrics to steal the stage. "Wheels," with its hilarious references to muscular cyborg German dudes and sexy French Canadians, became one of the concert's best moments. "Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle"'s shrewd lyrics also proved why the song was chosen as the band's first single.

Cake's humorous way with words and deadpan attitude didn't stop after the songs were over. McCrea's interactions with the crowd were filled with the same dry sense of humor, especially during "Sick of You," the highlight of the night. His note that people "can still party to negativity," delivered in his signature blank tone, was hilarious and perhaps only matched by his mid-song division of the audience into "escapism" and "hostility" halves.

The concert's only faux pas was the reoccurring annoyance of some speaker static. It disappeared for long portions of the show, but every now and then, such as during "Never There" and sadly "Short Skirt/Long Jacket," it obnoxiously reappeared.

It was a minor annoyance that couldn't mar an otherwise sweet night with Cake.

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