The latest edition of Cake’s mini-music fest, “The Unlimited Sunshine Tour,” created in 2002, is smaller in scope and features a less-prominent supporting cast than in previous years. And with no new material to promote — the band released a b-sides and rarities compilation earlier this year — Cake’s setlist leaned heavily on audience favorites primarily culled from 1998’s “Prolonging the Magic” and its most recent studio release, 2004’s “Pressure Chief.”
The songs’ laconic, detached sense of irony seemed to inform the band’s live perf, as they appeared to be going through the motions much of the time. Playing for just under an hour (plus an encore), Cake seemed to be largely coasting on the good vibes generated by the nostalgic crowd, though frontman John McCrea spent far too much time gabbing to the audience, at one point holding a tiresome contest to see who would win the avocado tree the band had brought with them onstage.
Later, McCrea took more time out to discuss the lack of running water in the majority of the world’s households. It’s a significant problem, to be sure, but not one that seemed to interest the Friday night date crowd — indeed, more than one audience member interrupted McCrea by yelling out a request.
Encore consisted of three numbers (including the typical audience sing-along), and the band closed with a perfunctory run-through of “The Distance.”
Along for the ride on the tour’s West Coast dates, retro-rockers the Detroit Cobras brought some fun, butt-shaking Motor City crunch to the mix. Singer Rachel Nagy has some impressive pipes, and guitarist Mary Ramirez brings a rebellious ‘tude to the band’s repertoire of obscure soul, rockabilly and cover songs by the likes of Irma Thomas, the Staples Singers, Mary Wells and Otis Redding.
For a band with such a raucous sound, the Cobras played it low-key, rarely moving around the large stage and cramming together closely as if they were playing a small club (which would likely make a better setting for their sound) rather than a large theater.
In a refreshing change of pace, instrumental troupe King City played in between sets on a makeshift mini-stage in front of the main stage. Their hootenanny-like perfs found them playing a mix of Gypsy jazz, frantic flamenco and kitschy lounge that included a few bars of “Stairway to Heaven” and Metallica’s “One.”
The Unlimited Sunshine Tour will illuminate Gotham’s Terminal 5 on Dec. 12 and 13, with Brazilian Girls subbing for the Detroit Cobras.