There were no Christmas trees, wreaths or jolly Santas on stage for “The Roches With a Holiday Twist,” but for nearly two hours the Roches brought their harmonious holiday spirit to UCLA’s Royce Hall.
The show’s title, “The Roches With a Holiday Twist,” gets it just about right: It’s an effervescent cocktail, mixing a well-chosen survey of the sisterly trio’s three-decade career, brightened by nearly a dozen traditional and original holiday songs (from their 1990 MCA release “We Three Kings”) and a couple of family guest appearances.
The Roches’ act hasn’t changed much since their 1979 self-titled debut. Maggie is the eldest and most serious; with her thick white hair and fashionably chunky glasses, she looks like an English lit professor at a Seven Sisters school, an impression her rich contralto voice does not contradict. Terre, the middle sister, has a sensible, dry wit; she’s the mother all the neighborhood kids come to for advice. Wearing a poufy red dress and floppy cap, Suzzy remains the family clown, and she introduces most of the songs.
When they harmonize, the results are always stunning. “The Hammond Song” (from their self-titled 1979 debut) remains a mysterious unresolved tale of shifting friendship; “Mr. Sellack” is their canny updating of the Andrews Sisters for struggling young urbanites. And their casually precise counterpoint singing on Handel’s “Hallelujah” is dazzling.
Their original holiday songs are equally impressive. “No Room at the Inn” is the nativity story narrated by the innkeeper, while “Jesus Shaves” is a gently comic tale of Christ in the modern workplace. “Bill’s Prayer” from their “Zero Church” project is a touching testament of everyday doubt and faith.
“In the Bleak Midwinter,” performed by Suzzy’s daughter Lucy, is a touching tale of holiday melancholy, with Loudon Wainwright adding a comic complaint about the early arrival of the holiday season.
Some 30-odd members of the aud clambered onstage to join the sisters in a sweet rendition of “Silver Bells.”