In its fine new debut album "Santa Sabina" and in a soaring show last summer at the Coconut Teaszer, Santa Sabina proved effective both at its darkest and at its hardest. On Saturday at the Palace, however, the Mexico City-based group opted for its somber mood. The players subordinated themselves to singer Rita Guerrero, forgetting that they have one of the punkiest attitudes in Mexican rock, and the cold affair only picked up when they asserted themselves as a band instead of acting as her backing unit.
The cabaret-style set-up at the Palace didn't help--the big tables placed on the floor just got in the way of the crowd, which wanted to be close to Guerrero. Considered by many to be Mexico's top female rock singer, she is reminiscent of new-wave vocalist Lene Lovich with her aggressive, high-pitched style, which reflects influences from as far as the Middle East.
The singer-songwriter is also a performance artist, and her theatricality, coupled with guitarist Pablo's and bassist Pocho's best moments and the quintet's occasional funk passages, showed why Santa Sabina has a safe spot among Mexico's most respected new bands. But because of their experimental nature, their success will probably be limited to a growing cult centered around its charismatic singer.