Don’t let the crappy pictures fool you (thanks a lot for the chairs up front, venue organizers), this was a night of solid entertainment.
Co-Headliner: Ben Folds
On this night Ben was part of a five-piece band, but not Ben Folds Five. No, his guitar and stand-up bass players were from the opening band Tall Heights, who we missed due to showing up fashionably late. He also had a drummer and a fella on keyboards and some solid harmonica on a few tracks, but the show centered squarely on Ben’s humor, charisma, and tremendous piano work.
I’ll admit that I only know Mr. Folds from a few of his hits from the late 90s and early 00s, so I was in total “let’s see how this goes” mode. Well, about ten minutes in I was officially a fan of this fine musician. It’s easy to forget that he is so musically gifted that he composes symphonies with orchestras on the spot, teaches music at Juilliard, and does this pop/rock stuff just for fun and cash. And boy was it fun.
He played the lovely “Annie Waits” solo before the aforementioned quartet joined him on the stage for the rest of the set. Throughout the night, I was surprised at how many of the songs I recognized, and even more surprised at how witty and snarky Ben is. He had the crowd in his palm not only when he was ticking the ivories but also with his banter between songs. Although we didn’t get “Brick”, to my buddy’s’ chagrin, we did get seven (7!) songs from Rockin’ the Suburbs – no other album of his was represented with multiple selections.
His intro to the classic “Rockin’ the Suburbs” was hilarious, as he explained his disdain for what he calls “angry white guy rock” of the late 90s that inspired the sarcastic song. Also, when they played the Eastern European sounding instrumental “Moscow Mitch”, a shot at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, it was laugh out loud funny.
After “Not the Same”, Ben closed out his portion of the night by instructing everyone in the crowd to sing their most comfortable part of a three-part harmony before climbing atop his piano and conducting us like an orchestra, which was way cooler than it sounds. To say I was pleasantly surprised by this show is a giant understatement. Ben is badass, folks.
Battle of Who Could Care Less
Levi Johnston’s Blues
Do It Anyway
Still Fighting It
You Don’t Know Me
The Ascent of Stan
Zak and Sara
Rockin’ the Suburbs
Not the Same
Spotify setlist playlist link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/09NDy6e7lAVjrDYdH1QBnV?si=TUOXCP-HRC-yuGyqW4N4jw
After a nearly forty minute setup (C’mon!), the boys from Sacramento sauntered onstage to some bizarre 80s boxing movie sounding music and then had a brief band meeting before starting into the familiar goodness of “Frank Sinatra”, the opening track from their ridiculously epic sophomore album that is somehow over twenty years old. The flies and the spiders get along together, folks.
This picture is terrible- so bad, in fact, that it really shouldn’t be here, but squint real hard and see the tree to the right of trumpeter Vince DiFiore. I’ll get to that shortly…
As with the last time I saw this band, the set was almost criminally light on songs, with only eleven played over the course of their ~80 minutes on stage. And, as a reminder, these are not a bunch of seven and eight minute elaborate jams, but rather pop/rock gems that last about three to four minutes. In fact, when I made the setlist playlist on Spotify, I was shocked that the songs only amounted to 45 minutes.
Now, I say all that to say this: I still had a blast watching these guys do their thing, even though it really flies in the face of what I want out of concerts 99% of the time. I am a bit of a concert snob and fully on team “play the music already”, while John McCrea milks each song for all its worth, seeking relentless crowd participation.
He also gave some thoughtful (perhaps inebriated) commentary on the moon, life itself, and as per usual, they gave away a tree to a crowd member who met two conditions: promising to take care of it and take pictures for the band’s website, and the ability to correctly identify the type of tree (plum, in case you are super curious).
Yes, they should play more songs, and yes I am slightly annoyed that they didn’t. However, the songs they did play sounded great, there was copious trumpet and vibraslap, and we even got their rendition of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”. I would have loved some “I Will Survive”, their most famous cover, but beggars can’t be choosers and what we got was terrific. And of course they closed out the night with the same two songs they did in Bend six years ago, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” and “The Distance”. If you get a chance to see Cake, do it – just be prepared to leave wanting more.
Sheep Go To Heaven
Meanwhile, Rick James…
Love You Madly
Sick of You
War Pigs (Black Sabbath cover)
Short Skirt/Long Jacket
Spotify setlist playlist link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6vt6BP5jb1KG2ORjfCEI8d?si=MEBi3rc7Q3mTG-eRtKOJwg