Friday, September 23, 2005

Sixty Years of Pop Music in 90 Minutes

I love the primal power of a guitar chord as much as the next knuckle-dragger, but there's something uniquely inspiring and entertaining in the simple, timeless intertwining of singing voices in harmony. If it's done right, acapella singing can hopscotch genres and entertain with more versatility than even the most adroit rock musician can muster. And Bodacious Ladyhood do the (mostly) acapella vocal tango splendidly.

All Girl Band, the trio's current cabaret show, runs at Thumper's in Seattle, Fridays and Saturdays until October 1; I was fortunate enough to catch it last week, and I'm glad I did.

If you don't have a lot of patience for vocal-group shenanigans, fear not: The Ladyhood are one step ahead of you. Their set wryly touches on many of the format's cliches with knowing and loopy humor, even as they deliver the song selection with panache and passion. Andrews Sisters covers come a dime-a-dozen with vocal groups, but this ensemble playfully poked fun at that inevitability before unearthing a hilarious Sisters obscurity ('Strip Polka') and singing the hell out of it.

The remainder of their program last Friday bounced easily between doo-wop (a fun 'Why Do Fools Fall in Love'), swing ('Route 66', done to a cucumber-cool T), Broadway (well-chosen selections from A My Name is Alice and Guys and Dolls), Bacharach (a sublime and tight cover of 'Say a Little Prayer'), and even prog rock (BL's lush remake of Spock's Beard's 'June' totally beat the stuffing out of the original). They delivered several songs by Northwest acapella loonies Uncle Bonsai with relish, and their cover of Moxy Fruvous' 'Kick in the Ass' was flat-out hysterical. Even through the silliest material, none of the guffaws came at the expense of vocal finesse.

All three women--sopranos Carolyn Hastings and Loretta Deranleau Howard, and alto Jenny Buehler--are solid singers individually, and their distinctive pipes each added something to the mix. Hastings held the high end with angelic purity, Howard provided gospel belter's fire in the middle, and Buehler's creamy low notes lent nuance to the bottom end. Deanna Schaffer's fine ivory-tickling fleshed out the sound in all the right places. In the end, though, the ensemble's the thing, and all three voices interwove with un-self-conscious ease.

A really great acapella group can make even the most marginal pop song sound good. And these women reconfigured a Phil Collins song enough to make it palatable to me. That, my friends, is sheer flippin' genius.

1 comment:

JennyB. said...

Thank you for the lovely write-up! I'm so glad you enjoyed the show.
One you mind if we quote you for publicity purposes? It doesn't look like we'll be getting any paper press this year. :o(