Saint Sister | Concert Review

 
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The casual din of the Rough Trade crowd hardly quieted as not-actual-sisters Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacIntyre, who formed Saint Sister in 2014, arrived onstage. Gemma positioned herself beside her formidable and luxurious wooden harp - a surprise to much of the audience, who shifted their collective weight forward towards the duo - as Morgan stood behind the keys. The pair only use these two instruments with a couple of loop pedals - no guitar, no percussion, just keys and strings. 

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Though there is another instrument, as appalling as a harp and necessary as a keyboard, that Saint Sister integrates into their music - enchantment. I'm even wary of using the word; culturally, "enchantment" is saved for mythology and fantastical tales of lore. But there's no denying that there's an enchantment to this duo, which they weaponize and weave into their sound, not to be ignored. 

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Launching into "Twin Peaks," the soft and sweet harmonies demanded an immediate hush from the crowd, and even the short breaks between songs were quiet and soft. During performances such as their breakthrough hit "Madrid" and the haunting, lush "Corpses", the sounds of the harp delicately twisted and blended with the practiced harmonies of their voices. 

Sharp and poignant in its writing and performance, their latest release "Is it too late?" was a standout of their set. Saint Sister were clearly excited to perform this newest single, balancing a more playful lyrical tone with wonderfully unique acoustics that continued to wow the audience. The stillness of the crowd was eerie, almost, as if we all knew we were witnessing something extraordinary. 

But the highlight, for me, was their acapella cover of "Dreams" by The Cranberries. For three pitch-perfect minutes, the two musicians sang with such power that it felt like Dolores O'Riordan had returned for one small, magnificent moment. Enchanting, indeed.

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Sean Maldjian