concert reviews

The Pipettes at the Black Cat, Washington, DC, Saturday 2 June 2007

Their first disc won't be available in the United States until tomorrow, but the Pipettes performed to a sold-out Black Cat on Saturday night -- not surprising, since the group has been the subject of Internet hype since it formed in 2003. Live with a backup band, the all-female singing trio from Brighton lived up to its throwback-to-1960s girl-group reputation, with peppy harmonies, matching polka-dot dresses, and choreographed gestures. They gave that retro sound a modern flair by broaching all the raunchy subjects you always imagined the Shangri-Las discussed behind closed doors, from no-strings-attached romance ("One Night Stand") to mistreating their boyfriends ("Why Did You Stay?").

Their performance was just as enchanting as their infectious songs are on record: The knowing glances they shared as they bopped around the stage conveyed the sisterly camaraderie that their songs imply. More impressively, they shared vocal duties seamlessly, with Gwenno's strong lead on "Pull Shapes" melding with Rosay and RiotBecki's interspersed lines.

As expected from a group whose recorded sound is so crisp, many of the group's vocal nuances lost their precision in the live setting. The sassy "Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me" was marred by RiotBecki's weak lead vocals and Gwenno's muffled countermelodies. But for this bubbly trio, vocal exactness was less important than liveliness, and their short-and-sweet pop tunes (20 in just under an hour) captured the trio's carefree spirit and delightful energy.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 4 June 2007; Page C05
.: Selected discography: Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me (the Pipettes, 2007); We Are the Pipettes (the Pipettes, 2006).