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Pop Review : Soul's Pointer Sisters Assimilate With Class

September 23, 1986|RANDY LEWIS | Times Staff Writer

The Soviet newspaper Pravda's unintentionally humorous mistranslation of the Pointer Sisters' 1983 hit "Neutron Dance" was way off the mark: politics has never played a big part in the sisters' repertoire.

But in the 13 years since their first album was released, the sultry sisters of soul have become experts at cultural espionage.

Although the trio's 90-minute performance Sunday at the Pacific Amphitheatre contained little new material, it underscored how the group has evolved and thrived in the pop mainstream by spying significant trends from rock's fringes and popularizing them.

The Pointer Sisters' concerts are always musically vibrant and fashionably colorful affairs, and Sunday's show was no exception. Like last year's tour, the show was dominated by songs from their 1985 "Contact" album and the 1983 "Break Out" LP chock-full of hit singles, although Ruth Pointer said the group has a new album due in October.

Wearing a succession of wild outfits that could have been cut from Jackson Pollock paintings, Ruth, Anita and June excelled both at pop hits that emphasize hooks and inspired arrangements as well as blues and gospel-tinged songs that showcased each woman's vocals.

They also engaged in a subtle form of musical infiltration by showing their largely middle-America audience that the shock of the new is simply the fear of the unfamiliar. That approach was evident in all aspects of the performance, whether in a guitar riff borrowed from Prince, dance steps originated by street-corner break dancers or the punk-inspired modified Mohawk worn by June.

Some might rightfully complain that their slick rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "Fire" diluted the song's raw sensuality, or that June Pointer's rendition of Huey Lewis' hit "The Heart of Rock & Roll" just wasted energy on routine material.

For the most part, however, they infused diverse elements with a strong sense of personality and vocal electricity, neatly avoiding the embarrassingly tepid results of 1950s pop singers who covered rhythm 'n' blues hits to make them more palatable to white audiences.

The Pointer Sisters may leave the innovating to others, but when it comes to assimilating they are at the top of the class.

The group begins a four-night engagement at the Universal Amphitheatre Thursday.

Comedian and rock parodist Mark McCollum opened.

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