The Pointer Sisters At BB Kings, Saturday, December 30th, 2017, Reviewed
The Pointer Sisters, four siblings born to a Reverend and his wife in Oakland California, began performing together in the late 1960s, so how on earth one of them managed a high kick that touched her chin during the final song at last night’s BB King concert is a either a post-Christmas miracle or hereditary. However, since the Pointer in question is more a Granddaughter than a sister, let’s go with hereditary, Alex.
During a well paced 90 minute run through their hits, three generations of women fronted a small and funky band, nailing one hit after another; less protean now then their genre crossing, hit single generating career was, they are proof that even the most successful bands are one step away from the oldies circuits.
Lead by the 71 year old Ruth Pointer with an easy going gracefulness, the trio’s songs were urban pop strokes and uber-r&b highlighting intense female sexuality, just like Ruth’s parents warned them against. Opening with an r&b joint hit written by a favorite son of the south, “Happiness,” and followed by the 60s girl group “He’s So Shy,” the twelve song set had us out of BB Kings by 930. There were no ballads, (even “Slowhand” was fast paced), no proselytizing over and above a 2018 better be better than 2017, the beat was steady four on the floor, and except for needless breaks while the band vamped and/or introduced themselves, it was seamless, tight, and sounded great. Ruth and her daughter Issa took turns on lead, while youngster at 33 years of age Sadako performed the trickier dance moves and knee bends.
The Pointer Sisters began their career singing Gospel at the Church Of God In Christ. Bonnie and June going secular as Pointers, A Pair, they were joined by Anita and later by Ruth in 1972, remained a foursome till 1977 when Anita went solo and June quit.As a trio in the early 80s they went through fourteen hits, and despite deaths, and generation changes, remain here today.
Last night, the Pointer Sisters short changed us a little, we didn’t get their Anita and Bonnie composed (and Elvis Presley covered) “Fairytale”, we didn’t get their jazz-funk fusion stuff, we didn’t get the black pop stuff that didn’t crossover. The Pointer Sisters kept to the hits, of which there were plenty. It is hard to find a low ebb, but a high point? “Neutron Dance” caught the groove and rattled it and a little earlier Bruce Springsteen’s soul groove track “Fire” (I’d been gagging to hear it live despite Helen Bach’s astounding dislike for the song) didn’t disappoint. Their Belgium hit version of “Sisters Doing It For Themselves” was one of the few times sexual desire wasn’t the theme, and “I’m So Excited”and “Jump (For My Love)” were given strong workouts. This was the MTV era women for 80s fans willing to give it one more try. But it has survived on the fringes, they have sold enough to remain a major draw in theory, in practise it seems a little lost in the pop world shuffle and by keeping too close to the path most travelled the Pointer Sisters don’t state their case well enough. I mean, they should be bigger even today.
If this wasn’t the show you’d dream of, blame an audience that seemed a little post-Christmas pre-New Year’s Eve dazed, and blame a set that took no risks. They have the sort of songs that would lend themselves to a deeper, more introspective study of the phenomenally successful outfit, but they chose an easier road to travel. Well, Ruth has done enough for one career without straining herself…