Let’s Play Two!

January 14th, 2013

Cake – The Bowery Ballroom – January 11, 2013

“What song should we play next?” John McCrea asked the sold-out crowd at the end of Cake’s first set at The Bowery Ballroom on Friday night. That line, muttered by the band’s lead singer as he struggled with a cold that only slightly hindered his iconic monotone voice, an onslaught of requests: “The Distance,” “Short Skirt/Long Jacket,” “I Will Survive!” After agreeing on and burning through a standout version of “Never There,” the group retired backstage for a short break—after all, since there was no opener, the band was able to play an epic two-set show.

The Lower East Side venue’s 550-person capacity allowed for an unusually intimate setting for a band with a career that’s been marked by several hits on rock charts over the past 20-plus years, and I overheard several people express their gratitude for being able to see the group in such a small place. McCrea and Co. lived up to the hopes of those bystanders, and the frontman engaged the crowd throughout the night, splitting the audience into two groups for the shouting choruses in Cake’s most famous songs. Like a magician, McCrea used his gravitas as a sort of sleight of hand to trick iPhone-touting people in the crowd into joining in the festivities. In all, the night reflected Cake’s essence as a punchy and fun band. —Alex Kapelman