Bowery Ballroom, NYC
March 21, 2017
Text and photos by David Chiu
When you are an indie pop group with fans in the front at shows who can recite the lyrics to your songs, you really made a connection. And that’s what happened to the Denver-based musical duo Tennis—singer/keyboardist Alaina Moore and guitarist Patrick Riley—when they played the first of two shows at the Bowery Ballroom this past week. The wife-and-husband team recently released their fourth album in six years, the romantic-sounding Yours Conditionally, which shows them broadening their sound since their surf pop debut Cape Dory. The show was literally a glittery affair with a disco ball on stage and Riley wearing a shiny shirt, and those elements lent a glamorous air to the proceedings. The new songs from the Yours Conditionally really worked well and complemented Tennis’ older songs—particularly the groove-oriented “My Emotions Are Blinding,” “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar,” and “In the Morning I’ll Be Better,” along with the very lovely and romantic “Matrimony” and “Fields of Blue.” As on the studio record, the performance of the devastatingly beautiful “Modern Woman” live was an emotional moment for this witness of the Bowery show. The duo also performed highlights from their previous albums including the danceable “I’m Callin’,” “Never Work for Free,” and “Marathon.” The couple sounded on point, highlighted by Moore’s sultry and soulful vocals, and Riley’s bell-like, shimmering guitar playing. It was impressive to witness Tennis’ loyal young fans who sung along to songs that weren’t exactly mainstream or Top 40 hit material even though they are full of catchy hooks and melodies. Prior to the recording the new album, Tennis went on a sailing voyage following the previous album-tour-album-tour grind. Safe to say based on Yours Conditionally and this show, the duo sounded like they benefited from the experience.
Opening for Tennis at the Bowery was the band Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, who were equally impressive. They’re from Melbourne, Australia, but given the sound of their music, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever echoed post-punk ’80s American groups like R.E.M., perhaps due to their guitar-oriented rock. (At first listen, I thought they were from the South until I heard their accents in between songs). The group is unique in that three of the five members play guitar and take turns at lead vocals—which is a rarity unless you’re the New Pornographers. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, whose previous album was Talk Tight, just released their latest record on Sub Pop, an EP called The French Press. They performed songs off of both—which I think included “Julie’s Place” and “Wide Eyes.” Granted I’m relatively new to this group’s music, but their solid performance encouraged me and perhaps others in the audience to explore more of their work (The band is currently on tour in the States through March 28, and then will play Australia starting April 21).