"Take me somewhere / We can be alone," cooed Tina Dico in "Home," the first song she performed during Zero 7's show Wednesday at the 9:30 club. That lyric exemplifies the intimate, late-night ambiance of "When It Falls," the latest album by the British ensemble, whose specialty is a well-chilled brand of jazzy pop-soul. Yet Dico -- one of a revolving cast of four onstage singers -- was considerably more heated live than she is on the CD. And she wasn't the only one. Although the group's 90-minute set was largely derived from "When It Falls," its spirit came from a different place altogether.
This was perhaps inevitable. Conceived in the tradition of such studio-oriented U.K. outfits as the British Electrical Foundation and Massive Attack, Zero 7 is essentially producers Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker, plus anyone else the ringleaders feel like including at that moment. Such hushed, faceless conceptual pop usually works better on a home stereo than a nightclub stage, where it risks being overwhelmed by audience chatter.
The six-piece band forestalled that possibility by pumping up the attitude, embroidering such songs as "Warm Sound" with squealing electric-guitar fills, driving keyboard solos and corny synthesizer swooshes. The singers -- Dico, Sia Furler, Sophie Barker, and Mozez -- were equally outgoing, adding funky melismata and full-throated swoops to their delivery. This more emphatic incarnation of Zero 7 didn't fracture any of the group's material, whose melodic appeal remained intact. But it did bruise the vibe just a bit.
-- Mark Jenkins