Possibly the most intriguing and talented band in the entire Latin rock spectrum, Cafe Tacuba has established a tradition of being weird for the sake of weirdness — and getting away with it. Much as the Mexican quartet’s creative choices have been jarring and unexpected throughout the years, they invariably result in music as beautiful as it is idiosyncratic. It was particularly sad, then, to witness Tacuba’s first serious misstep during a passionate but uneven perf that saw the band trying to outsmart itself and losing some magic in the process.
Tacuba’s unfortunate mistake was to add a live drummer to its classic lineup of guitars, bass, vocals and the wonderful Emmanuel Del Real on keyboards, drum machines and various electronic gizmos. It was the group’s reliance on coarse artificial beats that gave its sound a bouncy, psychedelic uniqueness to begin with.
At the Palladium, the persistent 4/4 drumming of Luis Ledezma gave a pedestrian feel to seminal Tacuba nuggets such as “La Locomotora” and the Leo Dan cover “Como te extrano mi amor.” Suddenly, the group known for its relentless originality began sounding like the dozens of conventional outfits that dominate rock en espanol.
Granted, the drums were needed to promote the group’s latest effort, EP “Vale Callampa,” which pays homage to Chilean rock pioneers Los Tres. Tacuba is no stranger to a good cover song — 1996’s “Avalancha de exitos” was a rambunctious collection of tunes by other artists. Compared to the brilliance of “Avalancha,” “Callampa” sounds merely adequate.
This being a Tacuba show, of course, it included plenty of pleasures to satisfy the capacity audience. Wearing a rooster mask, the group’s front man, Rita Cantalagua (he assumes a different name/persona for each record/tour), was in rare form, particularly during the devastatingly funky “Chilanga Banda,” and the quebradita-punk classic “La Ingrata.”