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Live review: Cake @ the Ogden Theatre

Oh yeah. Alright.

Sacramento’s Cake played two sold-out shows at the Ogden Theatre this week, unleashing their most rockabilly sound from their latest album “Showroom of Compassion.” Fronted by the acerbic John McCrea, Monday night’s show saw the band moving mechanically through its 20-year-old repertoire, with rare sparks flying when they offered their latest cuts.

“Shower of Compassion,” the band’s first new album in seven years, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in January. But the win was bittersweet for Cake in that the 44,000 copies sold in the first week marked a new record low for a chart-topping album. Still, the heady debut floated the working-class band.

 

“Just when we thought no one was buying music anymore, you helped us survive and we really appreciate it,” McCrea said Monday night.

McCrea was exceptionally chatty –- even preachy and sometimes condescending –- during the show, taking nearly a half hour to give away a cherry tree and spending another half hour directing a split-house sing along that, when finalized, lasted a single stanza.

The frontman’s idiosyncratic, fill-every-note spoken-word singing is a trademark of Cake, but on Monday he leaned too heavy toward the chatter. We easily could have heard three or four more songs if not for his talking-at-you rambling. Still, the precision of the four musicians behind him often overshadowed his rants. Vince DiFiore’s triumphant trumpet rang loud in “Mexico” as did his keywork in the funky “Mustache Man (Wasted),” which McCrea dedicated to men with mustaches “like a cop” or a “dude who keeps a ‘Gimp’ in the basement.”

That was probably a bit awkward for the few dudes out there sporting the ‘stache.

The band never really engaged except for their new cuts, showing bursts of life in the countrified melodies of “Bound Away” and the flowing “Sick of You.” The second set saw the band cater to the nostalgic with 1998’s “Sheep Go To Heaven” and “Never There,” with bassist Gabe Nelson and drummer Frank French finding a bubbling pocket of groove in both.

After the band left the stage, dozens in the audience began screaming “Encore!” (Hint: yelling “Encore!” is identical to screaming “I’ve Never Been To A Concert Before!”) Then came the odd chant “We want Cake,” which left the Ogden sounding like a massive birthday party full of high-chair rattling toddlers.

The mechanized and unengaged “War Pigs,” “Short Skirt, Long Jacket” and “The Distance” encores thrilled the house with Cake’s most popular tunes, but revealed a band that looked more tired than fired up.

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Jason Blevins is a strange dancer, but that has never stopped him.

Tina Hagerling is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. Check out more of her concert photography.