concert reviews

Pernice Brothers at the Black Cat, Washington, DC, Wednesday 6 December 2006

It seemed perfectly natural for the Pernice Brothers to cover the Zombies' "The Butcher's Tale" in the middle of their Wednesday night show at the Black Cat. The quintet has drawn such obvious inspiration from the bright instrumentation and lush harmonies of 1960s pop that a song from the era blended seamlessly into its set.

Those pop sensibilities carried the group's strongest songs, from the bouncy choruses of "Automaton" to the dreamy harmonies in "High as a Kite." Even "Somerville," with its more wistful lyrics, came across as lighthearted, featuring driving rhythm and frontman Joe Pernice's smooth vocals. His silky tenor was the group's strongest instrument, whether airy and Garfunkel-like on the carefree "PCH One" or more sinister, on an entrancing solo performance of "Bum Leg."

The breeziness of the Pernice Brothers' music relied heavily on their energy, which became apparent on the rare occasions when they ran out of steam. "The Ballad of Bjorn Borg" dragged a bit with its rambling lyrics and indistinct guitars, giving a sleepy feel to an otherwise lively set. But the quintet quickly regained focus with the full, booming "Microscopic View" and the mellow "Zero Refills," whose trancelike vocals led to a captivating instrumental ending.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 9 December 2006; Page C05
.: Selected discography: Live a Little (Pernice Brothers, 2006); Discover a Lovelier You (Pernice Brothers, 2005); Nobody's Watching/Nobody's Listening (Pernice Brothers, 2005); Yours, Mine, & Ours (Pernice Brothers, 2003); Big Tobacco (Joe Pernice, 2001); The World Won't End (Pernice Brothers, 2001); Overcome by Happiness (Pernice Brothers, 1998).