Arts Desk

School of Seven Bells @ Rock & Roll Hotel: Power Trio

So half of the vocals are gone for School of Seven Bells, which means that the band's live sound is less galactic and more hardworking. Seems like a bummer on paper, but in execution it's almost thrilling. Thursday night's show had its share of "hey, we nailed that!" smiles from Benjamin Curtis and Alejandra Deheza; the set probably could have been longer and louder, but maybe I'm nitpicking. Two things:

1. Touring drummer Zach Saginaw is a machine, and if School of Seven Bells is to remain a single-Deheza unit, he's essential to the live show: He's unfailingly in-the-pocket, but it never sounds as though he's simply playing along with the band's electronic underpinnings. He owns it all. The net effect is something Madchester-ish: The songs can go and go and go.

2. Curtis has all the tools of a rock star; Deheza doesn't always know what to do with her hands. She doesn't look uncomfortable, but it's possible that she'd rather be carrying a smaller percentage of the visuals. Still, the thing that made the band's sisterly harmonies so engrossing is that both sisters could sing. Take one away, and you still have one who hits every melody. Lots of bands don't have that. (And is it just me, or does she have a Susanna Hoffs thing goin' on?)

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