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The Puppini Sisters: Glamour at the Birchmere

By Stephen Brookes
The Washington Post • August 30, 2007

Strange and beautiful things happen when you stumble into a time warp. Take Tuesday night at the Birchmere, for example, where the Puppini Sisters -- a new glam-girl trio from Britain -- channeled the 1940s stylings of the Andrews Sisters and mixed it up with late-20th-century pop. Bizarre? Sure. But until you've heard Blondie's "Heart of Glass" or the Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian" sung in swing-era harmony -- complete with synchronized hip-rocking -- you don't know what you're missing.

puppini.jpgFormed just a few years ago, the Puppinis (not actual sisters, but they sing like it) owe an obvious debt to the Andrews Sisters -- they even opened the set with "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon," the Andrewses' first hit. But this is no mere homage band, unless it's homage to glamour in general. Strutting around the stage in silky 1940s gowns, the Puppinis sang blazing, tightly knit three-part harmony with absolute nonchalance, shifting effortlessly from standards like "Mr. Sandman" to the mambo-flavored "Sway" to a sexy, sultry "Java Jive."

While their takes on the standards were stylish and imaginative -- they even made "Jeepers Creepers" sound good -- it was their reworking of newer material that lifted the Puppinis into a realm of their own. Not everything glittered (the old Classics IV tune "Spooky" could have been left on the ash heap of history), but Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" got a much-needed revival, and an upbeat version of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" brought down the house. The best songs of the night, though, were the Puppini originals -- a hilarious, mock-bluesy lament called "I Can't Believe I'm Not a Millionaire" and the rueful "Jilted Again."

The Sisters -- Marcella Puppini, Stephanie O'Brien and Kate Mullins -- sang flawlessly all night. And, while they accompanied themselves on (respectively) accordion, violin and melodica, the band's superb rhythm section (Martin Kolarides on guitar, Henry Tyler on drums and Nick Pini on bass) kept things moving with subtle, understated power and precision.


Posted on Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 07:16PM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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