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Wendy & Lisa Make a Low-Key Reentry

September 07, 1998|MARC WEINGARTEN

Although they've been out of the pop arena for six years, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman are certainly not making any bold gestures to catch the public's attention. The duo's fourth album, "Girl Brothers," is available only on the Internet, and the two are making very low-profile public appearances. At McCabe's on Friday, Wendy & Lisa crammed the tiny stage with musicians and instruments and delivered a performance as moving as it was exuberant.

Their new material primarily deals with the death of Melvoin's brother, Jonathan, who died of a heroin overdose while on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins two years ago. The core of Wendy & Lisa's set revolved around those songs, tender elegies made even more poignant by fragile, minor-key melodies and guileless singing.

But it wasn't all downcast balladry. Songwriters of remarkable stylistic breadth, Melvoin and Coleman shifted fluidly from strident hard rock to acoustic folk to funk-pop (tipping off their early days as members of Prince's band). A few older songs were slightly recast, such as the duo's florid 1987 Top 40 hit "Waterfall," which was pared down and tightened up for '90s consumption.

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