by Dan Williams
One has bangs, the other doesn’t. Both have the same heaping talent and if you don’t currently know their names, you will.
The crowd at Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville was not there for this act. Instead, they were there to support a couple talented local acts. So when Nalani & Sarina took the stage Saturday night, the audience was polite, quiet and reserved.
What they didn’t know was that these 21 year old twins are already seasoned multi-instrumentalist road warriors with a long list of successes under their belts. They both play keyboards, guitar, ukulele and other instruments. Sarina on this night even wore little cymbals on her left shoe for added percussion. Moreover, when playing with their full band in New York, Will Lee of the David Letterman Show occasionally sits in on bass. Recently during an interview on Sirius Radio, they were joined by legendary blues-man Sam Moore (Sam & Dave) in a rendition of his hit ballad “When Something is Wrong With My Baby.”
They began the set with their very energetic and catchy pop song sing-along “Raw Sugar”. Nalani began on the keyboard with Sarina on guitar trading voices and joining harmonies. The third song, “Hung Up” is an old school funk original. By this point, three songs in, the twins had earned their stripes with this crowd. To push the crowd even further, they hit them with the quick word play of “Get Away,” a pop song that would make any rapper proud.
The key here is that all but two of their eleven songs in this set were originals penned by the 21 year old Bolton sisters. I asked their manager/vocal coach if he helped them write the harmonies and he said absolutely not. It is an innate natural gift that allows them to come up with the sweetest, most note perfect harmonies for their carefully crafted tunes.
The first of their covers was a slow, soulful rendition of the Sam Moore song mentioned above followed by original “Shadows in the Shade” and their signature emotional ballad “Balloons”. Nalani handles most of the vocals on “Balloons” and the audience was silenced by the maturity and creativity as they bridged in a bit of Goffin/King’s “Up On The Roof” before easing back into “Balloons”. It’s a wonderful composition that brings the most applause.
Then it was time to get rocking. Sarina told a story about how they are half Filipino and had recently turned 21. She said in her Mother’s culture, the rite of passage for 21 year old girls was to pick up ukuleles and sing a “traditional folks song” popular in their native land. They plugged in the ukes and launched into a spirited version of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”. The crowd loved the gag and sang along loud and clear. They were now officially Nalani & Sarina fans.
More funk, complete with the sound of a Hammond Organ appeared on their finale single, “We’ll Be Free”. The audience wouldn’t let them off the stage without an encore. So out came crowd pleaser “Break of Dawn” with shout outs and samples of Ray Charles and even a little bit of Taylor Swift.
The key with these two is that they have all the talent in the world coupled with support from smart industry veterans to cut through the barriers in the music industry. They have charisma, a solid work ethic and stage presence that wins new fans every single night. You will hear of them again.
Just remember, Nalani wears the bangs.