The Pipettes were a tired-looking trio as they finished up their North American tour at the Plaza. It was their twelfth performance in two weeks, and it showed.
The girly mod outfit from the U.K. normally delivers a brand of ’60s-esque pop that relies more on energy and attitude than it does originality. Each song is loosely choreographed with enough doo-wops and horizontal slicing-hand moves to fill an Austin Powers movie twice over.
But unfortunately, the Pipettes’ Vancouver performance lacked the necessary polish to pull off a style of music that doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Doing the mod thing is fine, but since it’s been done so many times, it has to done well to succeed.
On this particular night, the songs were virtually indistinguishable, as the sound at the Plaza wasn’t much better than at a high school gym. This, along with limp choreography and lacklustre energy, combined for a boring performance.
The girls didn’t seem to take it all that seriously. Sometimes they’d walk across the stage to say something to another member mid-song, and when they became dissatisfied with the sound guy, they would stop and give him the evil eye. Considering most of the songs have synchronized dance moves, such antics were distracting and came off as amateurish.
This casual attitude might be a strength or a weakness, depending who you ask. On the one hand, the Pipettes’ live performance has the feel of a trio of fun-loving friends braving the mic at a wedding, with no estranging star quality to distance the audience from the band. But on the other hand, this show wasn’t free, and concert goers should be able to leave feeling like they saw a performance better than one which could easily be replicated at a mod-themed birthday party.
As for the four male backing musicians, known as the Cassettes, they too seemed to lack a certain polish that would have improved the performance. Despite wearing homemade yellow vests embroidered with their initials, the occasional baseball hat and an uneven aesthetic made their image seem half-assed, to say the least.
However, there was a highlight to all this. During the encore, teenage openers Smoosh joined the Pipettes on stage. The Smooshers had a gay old time jumping up and down and belting out the final pair of songs with abandon.
If only the Pipettes had some of that energy and conviction, this night could have perhaps been a worthwhile experience.