The Pierces – Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Wednesday June 8
Two years ago, demoralised by poor sales and scant recognition, The Pierces were ready to throw in the towel. At that precise moment, the gods deigned to smile upon them. Coldplay’s bassist called up from out of the blue, offering to produce their fourth album, You & I. Liking what they heard, and spotting its commercial potential, their UK label went for the big push. Radio Two lent its support, as did stations such as Magic and Smooth.
All of a sudden, after over a decade in the business, The Pierces have become a “buzz” act. Last week, only Lady Gaga and Adele sold more albums in this country. And this week, by way of preparation for the summer festival circuit, the two Pierce sisters, Catherine and Allison, embarked on their first ever headline tour.
Curiously for an act who are currently at Number Four in the albums chart, The Pierces hadn’t quite managed to fill the Rescue Rooms to capacity. (Perhaps their new-found “adult contemporary” audience were too busy putting the kids to bed.) In terms of scaling up as a live act, these are still early days for them, but the duo seemed ready to embrace the challenge. Catherine (the plump-lipped platinum blonde) was all rock-chick glam and pop-star allure, while her older sister Allison (dark-haired and demurely frocked) counterbalanced the pouts with a gentler, more measured approach. The contrast was an effective one, but Allison did at times seem distracted, even faintly perturbed. If something was bothering her, then she didn’t succeed in fully disguising it.
The new album might be characterised by a glossy West Coast sound that evokes comparisons with Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac, but as the live set demonstrated, The Pierces have a wider range of influences at their disposal. The show opened with the greasy, grungey riff of Love You More, and it closed with the wry, deadpan satire of Boring – one of several songs that draws its inspiration from the sisters’ experiences at the fringes of the fashionable New York indie scene. Introducing I Put Your Records On – a rock star girlfriend’s lament, if ever there was one – Allison warned us of the perils of dating a musician. Given that Catherine was once engaged to one of The Strokes, it seemed strange that Allison took a rare lead vocal on this particular song, but perhaps the lyric was better served by a measure of emotional distance.
The new fans responded warmly to current radio favourite You’ll Be Mine (or “the one-two-three song”, as more casual listeners have been calling it), whilst the scattering of longer-term admirers were cheered by the inclusion of three numbers from the duo’s unfairly overlooked third album, Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge. A surfeit of production sheen marred the new single Glorious, but this was offset by the exquisite two-part harmonies of the quietest number, The Good Samaritan.
After the show, Allison and Catherine headed straight for the merch stand for an extended meet-and-greet, which they threw themselves into with unforced enthusiasm. Second chances are rare in the cutthroat world of pop, and their gratitude was well-placed. And on the evidence of this delightful show, their delayed good fortune was equally well-deserved.