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Pop Music : Pointer Sisters: Viva Las Vegas, Bye Bye Subtlety

The Pointer Sisters’ show at the Universal Amphitheatre was good--for a Las Vegas-style performance. By regular pop-soul concert standards, though, it was a bust.

The first of three weekend shows on Friday was full of glitz, glitter, schmaltz, cornball humor, dancers and flashy versions of old hits. Like the typical Vegas show, it was totally lacking in subtlety.

Back in the ‘70s, when June, Ruth and Anita Pointer were building their reputation, they did classy shows, without the garishness and with the emphasis on music. These days, though, the Pointers have become the Liberaces of pop-soul--silly caricatures in outlandish, tacky costumes, pandering to the worst instincts in an audience.

But they’re still the second-best vocal group in the business--just after the Manhattan Transfer--and still handle intricate harmonies with remarkable ease. Now, however, the Pointers are more concerned with commercialism than good singing. On songs like “Steam Heat,” “Yes We Can Can” and “How Long,” their vocal skills muscled through the overwhelming Vegas-ness of the show. It didn’t help that they were backed by a small group that often had a flat, hollow sound.

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Though they’re on Motown Records, the Pointers ceased being a force in the record business back in the mid-'80s. So they’ve put together a show that works on the big-bucks circuit of Vegas, fancy resort hotels and theaters geared to a middle-aged audience.

You can’t really blame the Pointers for opting for financial security. That’s just smart business. While fans of the group at their ‘70s best lament what used to be, the audience at the Amphitheatre was totally in tune with the schlockfest, wildly applauding every song and apparently very satisfied.


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