In a recent interview with Reverb, Tennis multi-instrumentalist Patrick Riley said, “We kind of feel like this could all fall apart.” But the near-capacity crowd that showed for the group’s album release show at the Bluebird Theater Thursday night probably doesn’t feel the same way. It was clear the audience was there to celebrate the local heroes’ past and future success and their new album, “Young and Old.”
In the same interview, vocalist Alaina Moore told Reverb’s managing editor John Hendrickson that she and Riley emphasized making more dynamic material after their debut album, “Cape Dory.” Four songs into their set, Moore’s claim materialized when they played “It All Feels the Same,” the first track off of “Young and Old.” The track’s gentle build culminated in a momentum that none of their earlier songs quite match, and it was the first time during the show that Tennis really sounded like a forceful live group.
Unfortunately, that momentum didn’t last long. Despite the special occasion and even the addition of backup vocalists from fellow locals Paper Bird, there was something off about the show. Throughout the night the group played timidly, appearing to simply be running through the motions. Flashes of something more — a deeper connection between the audience and band — happened during such tracks as “My Better Self,” “Marathon,” and “Origins,” but it was never sustained.
That isn’t to say Tennis sounded bad. On the contrary, the sound was actually spot-on. Moore’s vocals were especially tight, and the busy chorus melody in the new track “Petition” allowed her to show off her notable vocal control. The addition of backup vocalists from Paper Bird went a long way toward filling some of the emptier tracks in Tennis’ repertoire. And by the end of the night the crowd up front had even begun to dance. Some of the audience members began to leave before the group’s two-song encore, but those who stayed genuinely meant it when they called for the band to come back on-stage.
Nic Turiciano is a writer and student in Fort Collins. You can follow him on Twitter at @nic_turishawno or email him at email@example.com.
Lisa Higginbotham is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.