The evening washed over with an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia when the sister-duo Aly & AJ performed at Thalia Hall – their first show in Chicago in over a decade. Just last month, they released a single titled “Good Love,” the duo’s latest song since their Ten Years EP in 2017 (which, quite literally, was their first musical release in ten years). Despite their hiatus from music, Aly and AJ came back stronger than ever, which was unmistakable at their Chicago concert.
Rainsford, a newbie to music scene, but a charismatic and talented musician nonetheless, opened the show. Her set flaunted both her vocal skill and passion, which was apparent her songs “Rendezvous” and “S.I.D.” On the other hand, “Intentions” and “Too Close” as well as her cover of “Stand By Me” showed off her charming and playful personality and stage presence. Rainsford exuded confidence on stage, chatting and interacting with the crowd and her voice never once faltering when singing. She was able to work the stage with the ease of a seasoned performer. Finding out that this was her first ever tour was mind-blowing. Rainsford’s sound was a blend of chillwave, soul, and R&B with much of her songs having a subtle 80’s influence. Her music was very complimentary to Aly and AJ’s revamped sound, making her the perfect opener for them.
Not long after Rainsford, it was finally time for Aly & AJ to take the stage. The duo introduced their set with a couple of newer tracks, “The Distance” and “I Know” from their Ten Years EP. However, they didn’t exclude any of their older fans as the next song, “Closure,” took the audience on a trip down memory lane. Their setlist was a balance between old and new as they performed a mix of their pop-rock tracks from Insomniatic (2007) and Into the Rush (2005), as well as their more recent synth-heavy, dreamy, 80’s pop-influenced tracks. Additionally, the sisters also included songs that they released during their brief time as 78Violet into their set, such as “Boy” and “Hothouse,” where they experimented with more folk-inspired melodies.
It was clear that a majority of the crowd were fans of Aly and AJ from their Disney Channel days. Whenever the duo played their earlier songs, the audience would enthusiastically sing and dance along to all of the familiar lyrics. Despite playing songs from their younger years, the sisters were able to give each song a fresh and mature take, which was more fitting to their current style, and showed their growth as musicians.
Whether they performed throwback tracks like “Chemicals React” and “Flattery,” played unexpected rearrangements of familiar tunes, like in the heavy metal outro for “Rush,” or sang covers, such as The Cure’s “Lovesong,” there was never a dull moment during Aly and AJ’s concert. While the whole performance was memorable, it was the duo’s encore that truly left a lasting impression. Starting out with a cover of Cher’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” they then went on to perform “Like Woah” and “Potential Breakup Song” (twice!). Finally, they closed off the night with “Take Me.”
Before heading out, Aly and AJ made sure to mention that while this was their first time performing back in Chicago in over a decade, that they promise to be back again in 2019. What better way to wrap up the last show of the Promises Tour than with a sweet promise of return?