Live Review: CAKE – at Celtic Connections

QMU, 23/1/19

The crowd was busy, with an eclectic mix of fans of all ages. After a bit of a lengthy wait, CAKE took to the stage and without much of an opening jumped straight into a rendition of ‘Frank Sinatra,’ from their first studio album Fashion Nugget. John McCrea’s characteristic flat monotone vocals rang evenly throughout the intimate venue, but the highlight of the song was undoubtably when the lights cut out and a spotlight illuminated Vince DiFiore, who proceeded to perform his signature trumpet solo to the obvious delight of the crowd.

McCrea boasted that the band don’t use set lists, but instead just play what they feel like playing, right there in the moment. Well, that night the band felt like playing hits such as ‘Mexico,’ ‘Sick of You,’ ‘Never There,’ and my personal favourite, ‘Love you Madly.’ CAKE is a band that has that special quality of you not needing to know every song and every lyric to enjoy them. All their songs are instantly catchy and danceable, and the crowd were in high spirits. Guitarist Xan McCurdy was incredibly skilful, displaying his talents not with gaudy guitar solos but with tight riffs and licks, and drummer Todd Roper kept perfect timing. The whole band were incredibly tight– I overheard an audience member comment on how their live performances perfectly emulate their studio-recorded tracks, and I’m inclined to agree.

A typical CAKE show involves acknowledging the political climate, and this gig was no exception. McCrea joked about the state of America before launching the band into a performance of their latest single ‘Sinking Ship,’ the lyrics of which lament a self-inflicted apocalypse. Their next song was a stark contrast to it’s sombre predecessor, but McCrea soon had the crowd back in high spirits with the back-and-forth chanting of lyrics of ‘Sheep Go to Heaven.’ The singer often added texture with a vibraslap, which proved to be an entertaining gimmick.

The band teased the audience by finishing their set without having played either of their most famous songs, ‘The Distance’ or ‘Short Skirt, Long Jacket.’ But after a brief minute away they returned to the stage, and delivered to the cheering crowd what we’d been anticipating the whole night. The show felt like a slow burn to the big hits, but the journey was enjoyable.

[Megan Willis]


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