Concert Review: Tennis, Sharon Van Etten, July 31, Phoenix Concert Theatre


Tennis is one of those bands that, like Best Coast, naturally lends itself to thoughts of catching waves, frizzante drinks, and summer. In Tennis’s case, the husband and wife duo of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore throw in a Cape-Coddish boating tinge to their music, and you can easily imagine yourself at the yacht club dance circa the early 1960’s.

In otherwords, I don’t think the latest accused Colorado mass-shooter was knocking back beers at the Hi-Dive watching this Denver-based duo perform.

I can only imagine their set started promptly at 9:00 because our arrival at 9:10 had them deeply entrenched at the end of a song. They quickly started into the much-loved Petition off their 2012 effort, Young & Old. They played for nearly an hour to a mostly empty venue, so I hope they experience fuller venues on this tour with Sharon Van Etten because their latest album is pretty much flawless. Yes, a lot of it is derivative from the environment and influences that berthed them into a band (listening to the Shirelles, sailing around through the Florida Keys–you can’t help but think this couple must be WASP-adventurer perfection), but none of that really matters. It’s fun to listen to–light and airy enough for a hot summer night.

Given the quality of their material, let’s hope their stage presence improves as they mature as performers. There was nothing wrong with their set perse–the songs were all harmonized in key, wife Alaina did a good job attempting at some audience interaction, and Patrick was appropriately crouched over his guitar looking a bit like an Altar Boy. Perhaps in the future we’ll see some variation from their studio recordings, and a bit less stiffness. Still, with an hour-long set, it’s hard to describe an opener of this caliber as anything less than agreeable.

3 out of 5


Sharon Van Etten

With respect to Miss Sharon Van Etten, she puts on a good show. All of the elements are here–the charming bashfulness, mild self-deprecation, beauty, talent, and engagement. Despite some weird projections of what appeared to be a group of people dancing around a maypole and underwater vacation footage of a scuba dive, her set was pretty much gripping from start to finish.

Being unfamiliar with her catalogue, I can only say that her music is good, her delivery is great, and her ability to establish a connection with an audience is superb. Much of this has to do with her great timing in cracking jokes (“I wrote this song for a hardcore Christian guy I used to date”). It’s the sort of thing that doesn’t translate very well into paper or punch, but the ensemble package of delivery is something memorable. The highlight of the show was when she started randomly taking requests and she rattled out one of her early songs effortlessly, alone, on some kind of squeeze-box instrument.

That’s the kind of concert moment where you can hear gulps from the audience, and as Martha Stewart would say,  it’s a good thing.

4 out of 5

Posted on by Allison in Concerts

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