Review: Cake at the Levitt Pavilion at Steelstacks

Cake, an alt rock band hailing from California, kicked off the Yuenglinger Summer Concert Series at the Levitt Pavilion in Bethlehem in a memorable way on July 12th with a solid sixteen-song set that included hits, new songs, and even a Willie Nelson cover.

Cake’s live performance sounded fantastic, with trumpeter Vince DiFiore and frontman John McCrea both shining, delivering album-ready performances throughout the entire show.  DiFiore particularly killed it during a trumpet solo during “Love You Madly” and McCrea’s hilarious interjections throughout the show kept things lively and interesting. 

Speaking to the nearly sold-out crowd, McCrea commented on the campus’s “Bridge” sculpture when it lit on fire, saying, “I didn’t know there would be fire,” saying it was a powerful and moving symbol.  He even mentioned the Bethlehem Steel stacks they were playing in front of, and the fact that steel for the Golden Gate Bridge from their home state was manufactured in Bethlehem.

While Cake has never enjoyed immense Top 40 popularity, their singles have generally done well on the alternative charts and most made it into their setlist on Sunday.  McCrea led one of the best crowd sing-alongs I’ve ever seen live during “Sick of You,” right before the band left the stage for an intermission.  And what an odd, interesting intermission that was.  Before the band came back from their break, a big tree was brought on stage.  And what would Cake be doing with that tree?  Why, giving it away to an audience member, of course.

After explaining that yes, one lucky audience member was going to go home with a beautiful arbor, McCrea laid out some ground rules.  First, the winner had to take it home and plant it near Bethlehem.  Next, they had to promise to upload a photo to Cake’s Forest page, showing a world map of trees and the fans that won them at the concerts.  To win the tree you had to correctly identify it, and one lucky crowd member nailed it by guessing it to be a plum tree.  The lucky couple were seen later in the night carrying the tree out, and thus occurred one of the most random things I’ve ever seen on stage at a concert.

After that little break in the action, Cake resumed their set, playing at a fairly quick clip through the rest of their set.  They even busted out “Walk on By,” somewhat of a rarity in their live sets, which brought the energy level down a bit with its country lull after a high-energy rendition of “Love You Madly.”  The encore brought the two songs you’d expect, “Short Skirt/Long Jack” and “The Distance” to end the show on a high note, honestly making you wish the set was a few song longer.  “War Pigs” or even “I Will Survive” would’ve been nice additions, as would some of their earlier work from the Motorcycle of Generosity days, but the music was so good it was a little hard to walk away disappointed.  This was a genius choice by the Artsquest programming team: a perfect concert to kick off the summer season at the most summer-oriented venue in the area.  The Yuengling Summer Concert Series continues tonight with the return of Modest Mouse at 7:30pm and Philly-based jammers Dr. Dog on Friday, September 25th at 7:30pm.  Check out the setlist and photos from Cake below:

Setlist:

Frank Sinatra
Italian Leather Sofa
Sad Songs & Waltzes (a Willie Nelson cover)
Long Time
Bound Away
Mustache Man
Sick of You

Intermission

Guitar
Opera Singer
Love You Madly
Walk on By
Wheels
Never There
Sheep Go to Heaven

Encore
Short Skirt Long Jacket
The Distance

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