Are the guys in Cake having fun yet?
Though the Sacramento-based band’s twisted and off-kilter blend of groove, rock and country stylings would seem an unlikely candidate for top-40 action, their current “Fashion Nugget” album (Capricorn) has, in fact, moved onto page one of the nation’s charts, propelled by the radio success of infectious single “The Distance.”
That song, like much of the material on the quintet’s two albums, is laced with sardonic wit and bone-dry irony. But at the sold-out El Rey Saturday, the band seemed far too conscious of itself; the members never breaking a smile, never laughing at the sometimes ridiculous imagery of their songs.
Appearing seemingly as the anti-rock star, singer-guitarist John McCrea was long on humor but short on laughs. His everyman look, complete with trademark fishing hat, and his biting take on contemporary life make him one of rock’s more interesting and likable personalities.
But his cocky onstage demeanor and his band’s lack of warmth short-changed their otherwise entertaining performance. McCrea’s taunting way of giving away one of the band’s T-shirts was most annoying.
Songs like the Beatles-esque “It’s Coming Down,” the expletive-filled “Fashion Nugget,” “Frank Sinatra,” with its throw-back sentimentality, and their cover of Gloria Gaynor’s disco gem “I Will Survive” had the attending KROQ listeners pushing and shoving, a sure sign of acceptance.
But their too-cool attitude and lack of showmanship ultimately grew stale and made for a show that certainly didn’t go the distance.