Mellow Irish rockers the Cranberries are — like the bitter Cape Cod fruit that shares their name — an acquired taste and clearly not for everybody, and at the sold-out Wiltern on Wednesday the band gave a whimsical albeit trying performance of bland pop, which was just what the vociferous crowd came to hear.
Following a nearly three-year layoff, the quartet (often supplemented by a keyboardist and second guitar player) wrapped an eight-city U.S. theater sked here to promote “Bury the Hatchet” (Island), their fourth album that, just like the other three, is full of songs of personal obsession and self-righteous exhortation.
Awkward singer Dolores O’Riordan (who also played acoustic and electric guitar as well as some keyboards) has an angelic voice that she ill-treated by lurching into jolting yodels and other vocal faux paus. Her dryly peppy delivery remains devoid of soul, even though some of the new songs she sang celebrate the recent birth of her first child.
O’Riordan, 28, whose unique waddle-walk while she played scored points for originality, often left the stage before the songs ended, appearing disinterested, and she frequently began singing the next song from off-stage.
The other band members — including brothers Noel and Mike Hogan on guitar and bass — gave an equally uninspired effort, mostly standing in place and bashing out the simple songs no doubt exactly as they rehearsed them. Touring guitarist Steve de Marchi had the unfortunate luck of playing most of the time in near-darkness, even as he sang harmony vocals.
The worshipful fans, though, were caught up in what they perceived as the spirituality of it all, and they gave the most popular songs — like the boring “Ode to My Family,” from 1994’s breakthrough album “No Need to Argue,” big hit “Zombie” and show opener and current single “Promises” — rousing receptions that shook the balcony and at times nearly drowned out the band.
Band used dramatic and colorful lights and futuristic stage props to full effect, giving the otherwise dull songs, which draw inspiration from traditional Irish music as well as such contemporary sources as Sinead O’Connor, some needed sense of passion.
The Cranberries return to the U.S. for a six-week late-summer tour that hits Universal Amphitheatre Sept. 16 and closes in San Francisco two nights later.