Topping a bill of contrasting front men -- a baritone, a screamer and two rappers -- Cake served up a breezy set of its signature bouncy ditties whose subject matter are by turns ironic and sarcastic, with a dollop of environmental caution articulated between tunes. Lest one think the band is succumbing to the corporate influence of rock music it likes to criticize with more radio-friendly songs and a successful tour, the band back dropped the stage with its cheeky "A Safer World. A More Helpful America" banner (a dig at election year slogans), and hung a mirrored disco ball overhead.

Topping a bill of contrasting front men — a baritone, a screamer and two rappers –Cake served up a breezy set of its signature bouncy ditties whose subject matter are by turns ironic and sarcastic, with a dollop of environmental caution articulated between tunes. Lest one think the band is succumbing to the corporate influence of rock music it likes to criticize with more radio-friendly songs and a successful tour, the band back dropped the stage with its cheeky “A Safer World. A More Helpful America” banner (a dig at election year slogans), and hung a mirrored disco ball overhead.

The verbal dexterity of front man John McCrea, his baritone firing on all cylinders throughout the perf as the band tackled tracks from its fifth disc, “Pressure Chief,” and earlier releases, with many of the offerings given added heft by Vince diFiore’s soulful trumpet.

McCrea also showcased a vocal range in some of the newer tunes, such as “No Phone,” marking a slight departure from earlier discs where he relied more on a sharp, analytical wit delivered in a talky-sing form. Where else but a Cake show can an audience be quizzed on what percentage of the world has running water?”

At about the same time the mid-set act the Walkmen hit the stage, the band was also being featured on the Fox TV series “The O.C” in a pivotal scene where it played its latest single “Little House of Savages” during a party.

But in that setting, the show’s viewers were unlikely to get a feel for the true intensity of the band’s front man, Hamilton Leithauser, who shifts from screaming a tune’s lyrics complete with his popping neck veins visible to the venue’s mezzanine, to a more measured nasally style sounding like Bob Dylan.

And that schizophrenia is the attraction of the Walkmen: Chaotic and dramatic quickly becomes calming and evocative as the band works through its repertoire, including tracks from its sophomore bow, “Bows And Arrows.”

Show opener Heiruspecs (pronounced high-roo-spex) powered through a set of hip-hop tracks off its latest release, “A Tiger Dancing.” While shunning the use of samples or prerecorded tracks, and creating every effect live, the two MC’s fronting the Minneapolis based group offered a distinct sound of tight rhyming and pounding beats commingled with some memorable funk-filled strains.

Cake; The Walkmen; Heiruspecs

Universal Amphitheatre; 6,189 seats; $32 top

Production

Presented by HOB Concerts. Reviewed Nov. 18, 2004.

Cast

Bands: ( C): John McCrea, Gabe Nelson, Xan McCurdy, Vincent di Fiore; (W): Matt Barrick, Peter Bauer, Hamilton Leithauser, Paul Maroon, Walter Martin; (H): Sean "Twinkie Jiggles" McPherson, MC Felix, Muad'dib, dVRD, Peter Leggett.
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