Proving that it has finally recovered from a series of creative missteps over the last couple of years, Cafe Tacuba shone at the Gibson Amphitheater through a performance that showcased the quartet’s limitless imagination, depth and sense of humor. In addition, the show offered a snapshot of contemporary Mexican rock through compelling sets by opening acts Kinky, Ely Guerra and Liquits.
Tacuba is currently touring in support of “Un Viaje”, a sonically lackluster but emotionally potent live set recorded last year in their hometown, Mexico City. After 15 years of challenging the conventions of Latin rock, the band is in a self-referential mode, celebrating its catalog of hits while looking back at a career that includes seminal albums such as 1994’s “Re” (Tacuba’s manifesto of stylistic anarchy), 1996’s “Avalancha de Exitos” and 1999’s “Reves/Yosoy.”
Sunday’s show found Tacuba in a nostalgic kick, emphasizing early hits such as the rollicking “Las Flores” and the quebradita-meets-metal madness of “La Ingrata.” Anchored by keyboardist Emmanuel Del Real’s gift for merging rock ‘n’ roll tradition with authentic Mexican roots, these early nuggets cover a range of genres (disco, punk, banda) in order to move the feet. Just beneath the surface, however, lies a bitter aftertaste of longing and regret — a Tacuba trademark.
In 2003, the group’s decision to replace its customary artificial loops with a live drummer while favoring a more conventional rock approach flattened the scope of the songwriting. But now the drums sound sharp and elegant on the kinetic “La Locomotora,” while Del Real’s heart-on-your-sleeve vocals can turn a pedestrian ballad (“Eres”) into an appealing pop curio. Tacuba’s biggest virtue might very well be their ability to grab a run-of-the-mill concept and turn it into transcendental stuff.