Last week Tennis’ new album Yours Conditionally was released. The album continues Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley’s progression into their 70s laden sound, delving even deeper into their layered lyrics and strong themes. Recorded after a 10 ocean voyage, Your Conditionally is an album that sounds familiar and comforting while giving you a little edge of defiance thanks to Moore’s heavenly voice and Riley’s engaging guitar. The night before release day the band was on tour in Chicago at Thalia Hall, where they presented their album to an adoring crowd.
Before Tennis took the stage, Overcoats commanded the crowd with their soulful electronic sounds. I was genuinely surprised by how amazing their sound was and that I had not come across the duo beforehand. A fairly big contingent of the audience screamed out their name as Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell came to the stage clad in baggy white sweaters that made them look like ghostly apparitions in the middle of the darkened stage. Within a few moments of setting up their computer, an electronic R&B influenced music began to fill up the room. It was a smooth and evocative sound that instantly hooked me.
Their songs tended to carry some very impressive weight to them, especially lyrically. Overcoats deal with love and relationships in starkly honest way that I incredibly appreciated. “The Fog” details a difficult abusive relationship where the songs chorus of “Freedom is when I’m without you” feels like a heavenly reprieve. Even with that heavy subject matter the duo moved around the stage with such enthusiasm throughout the entirety of their set. Although they only introduced one of their songs as a dance number (“Leave the Light ON”), Elion and Mitchell filled every song with all the energy they had within them. Overcoats did a splendid job of getting the crowd pumped up and were an ideal start to the evening.
As the light fell again and Tennis made their appearance known, I could already tell it was going to be a magical night. The crowd was loud and so ready to let themselves sway along to Tennis’ vintage tinged sound. They started their set with the pristine “In the Morning I’ll Be Better” with Moore taking firm grasp of the audience’s attention. While at their core the band is a duo and live they implement a few more musicians into their sound, it’s incredibly hard not to look away from Moore at her keys. She handles her onstage performance with ineffable grace, letting her passionate voice grab all the attention in the room.
Throughout the set the crowd was intensely entranced by Tennis, cheering loudly and ecstatically at every song. Tennis seemed incredibly appreciative, especially Moore as she looked genuinely taken a back by the reaction. Early on in the set she expressed her happy surprising playing such a large venue, asking one of the photographers to come up on stage and take some picture of her and the crowd to show her mother. When the crowd got incredibly boisterous later in the night Moore beamed with joy. “Best audience award goes to you guys” she uttered and I couldn’t agree more.
Tennis set spanned their records, giving brief glimpses of just how far they come. While their sound is still embedded in old school pop sound that drips with warm energy, Tennis’ sound has been honed to perfect. Songs like “Mean Streets” and “Origins” retain their twinkling vocals and dreamy vibes, but their newest songs seemed top the night. The biting sarcasm of the damning “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar” lays waste to the song title’s statement and stands as a defiant ballad that is only made greater by Moore’s steadfast performance. Her confidant and poised voice says so much about the songs true meaning. This is also true of the more straightforward tracks like “Fields of Blue”, where the love and affection in the song feel genuine.
When it came for the final songs of the evening, Tennis looked toward their past. Their humility that had filled the rest of the set extend right to the end, giving the emotionally receptive crowd some of the best performances of the night. The group played “My Better Self” with the lights flashing just as strong as the regular set. Moore stepped out from behind her keyboard and let herself move to the the bands grooves. The final song saw Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley without the rest of their backing band in the middle of the stage . The lights dimmed and a red glow eclipsed them as Riley’s guitar gently underlined Moore’s beatific voice during “Bad Girls”. Moore was at his most endearing and intimate during the song, causing the audience to hush and marvel at Tennis in their purest form. It was a fantastic way to end the night, reminding people just how talent this duo is.