Tennis at Lincoln Hall | Photos
Whether intentional or not, the entire premise of the band Tennis has the tendency to come off sounding like a gimmick. A husband and wife set sail on a seven month nautical voyage and write a record of concise pop songs chronicling their experiences upon their return. Their 2011 debut Cape Dory proved there was some substance to the group, showcasing the exceedingly pleasant vocal stylings of Alaina Moore and girl-group inspired arrangements of guitarist Patrick Riley. On their latest release, entitled Young & Old, the band shrugs off any hint of contrivance, retaining their influences while broadening their sonic scope through production work by Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney.
On stage at Lincoln Hall, the group's expanded palette was made evident, as was their increased numbers, with an additional keyboardist joining the core trio. The extra set of hands was most noticeable when applied to some of their their newest songs, especially through the twisting organ lines of "Traveling" and the unrelenting drive of lead single "Origins." Venturing out from behind her keyboard to belt out the soulful strains of standout track "Petition," the undeniably adorable Alaina Moore demonstrated a deceptively powerful vocal presence which never faltered as the evening wore on.
With the frequent format of staccato piano chords overlaid by lazily drifting guitar lines, some of the band's simpler compositions had the tendency to blend together in the live setting. The breezy melodies of songs like "Waterbirds" and "Bimini Bay" were serviceable, but largely overshadowed by the night's far stronger offerings. Luckily, whenever the set did drag, it wasn't long before a jaunty tune like "Robin" arrived to lighten the mood. True to their name, Tennis' performance came in volleys, with each middling rendition punctuated by a string of truly exceptional interpretations. Mirroring the implications of the title Young & Old, the band's set drew upon constantly shifting amounts of youthful naiveté and hard-earned experience.