Pointer Sisters with the Oregon Symphony – October, 2005

Review

Yes, they’ve still got it.

That’s what you wanted to know, right? Thirty-three years after Yes We Can, Can hit the pop charts, 23 years after Neutron Dance became one of the first black videos in heavy rotation on MTV, the Pointer Sisters are still looking good. More important, they’re still capable of recreating the high pop energy and flash that has earned them a place in American music history.

Only two remain from the original quartet that came out of the Church of God in Oakland, Calif. Bonnie Pointer left in the 70s, and Ruth Pointer’s daughter, Issa, joined the group in 2003, replacing June, who died this year at age 52 but with the help of a heavily-processed vocal mix and high-decibel sound, the magic still worked in concert with the Oregon Symphony on Saturday night at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

Backed by a five-piece group with two sets of keyboards as well as the orchestra, the sisters pranced on stage in sparkly silver dresses and silver high heels, earrings dripping like chandeliers and rhinestones gleaming on their wrists. They didn’t let up until they’d sashayed off to Sisters Are Doing It (for themselves).

Hands on cocked hip, finger-pointing, still got it, baby.

On Jump they leaped and ran in place, and though the choreography was a little stiff, they were active and demurely — sexy. Remember, it was 1983 when they dominated MTV, and, as Anita announced from the stage, their older brothers, wives and friends were in the audience, too.

With only the ballad Slow Hand to vary the pace, they arrived at the climactic I’m So Excited, with the mostly middle-aged and older crowd clapping along. The voices for a moment riffed together as if inspired, and though their massive, practiced productions never will sound spontaneous, Saturday’s show was animated and cheerful.

Their version of Chain of Fools was the night’s most soulful, demonstrating fine harmony singing as well. But the overall effect of the thick sound, even on tunes where only the quintet backed them, tended to obscure individual voices, especially since the mix was so heavy on mid-range pitches.

Also troubling was the selection of orchestral works in the concert’s first half.

Guest conductor Charles Floyd, Natalie Cole’s musical director for 11 years, has extensive experience with symphony/gospel collaborations, but he chose instead to present TV and movie soundtracks, such as the theme from The Simpsons and an excerpt from the John Williams soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (even the Overture to William Tell!), none of which have apparent musical connection to the Pointer Sisters.

I could have done a whole symphony or something that nobody would listen to, Floyd said from the podium after a medley of TV themes, but instead . He paused. TV theme songs.

Maybe that’s why he thanked Williams for your inspiration and for teaching me not to take life so seriously. That may be the connection to the Pointer Sisters after all.