Sacramento quintet Cake remains a dependable and entertaining purveyor of incisive and clever country-flavored rock, and even exhibits healthy signs of growth, which suggests a career beyond what many expected was a one-hit episode.
Their lineup may have changed a bit since their most recent Southland visit at the Palace last summer, but Sacramento quintet Cake remains a dependable and entertaining purveyor of incisive and clever country-flavored rock, and even exhibits healthy signs of growth, which suggests a career beyond what many expected was a one-hit episode.At the first of two sold-out nights at the Troubadour, songs from Cake’s amusing new Capricorn/Mercury album “Prolonging the Magic” took center stage and built on the group’s knack for blending disparate musical styles and contrasting emotional themes. “As soon as you’re born, you start dying,” sang casual frontman John McCrea during adventure-seeking “Sheep Go to Heaven” — the first of the evening’s new tunes that followed a four-song opening salvo of older material — offering insight into the creative impulses that drive this happily eccentric band. Sporting his usual fishing hat, sunglasses and goatee, and playing an old acoustic guitar that was held together by pieces of electrical tape, the genial McCrea performed as if he and the audience were in on the same joke, or had been dumped by the same woman, or as if everyone in the crowded room was as suspicious of the world and put upon as he. His bandmates smoothly slid from one mood or style to another over the 16 songs. The bass player and drummer dropped into many a steady, midtempo funk grooves, while utility player Vince Di Fiore, whose main role was that of Ranchero-inspired trumpet player, added spice by also performing on a variety of keyboards and percussion instruments. Tasty leads and chords from new guitarist Xan McCurdy gave the program a sharp edge, while pedal steel guitar from guest Greg Vincent during the plaintive “Mexico” drove home Cake’s love for traditional country music. Other highlights of the 90-minute concert included a reworked version of the band’s current single “Never There,” sans the sound effects of the album version, the consumerism-mocking “Italian Leather Sofa,” and during the encore, an extended take on fan fave “Jolene,” from the group’s 1994 debut. The ’96 radio hit “The Distance,” which McCrea referred to as a “sad song,” was hampered by sound problems that left Di Frio’s significant synthesizer part all but out of the mix until the end of the song.