To be in love is a state that you would want to avoid in a tennis match. You see, as pretty as it sounds, to accumulate the 'love' score simply means that you have no points in a game. Sad sports fact.
Nevertheless, one could not simply stir away from the topic of love when discussing Denver band Tennis, which comprises of husband-and-wife duo, Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, and drummer James Barone. Accompanied by a touring musician on second keyboard, the trio gave their first Singapore performance at Esplanade Theatre Studio as a part of Mosaic Music Festival 2013.
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Under the watchful eyes of the 200-something crowd, the indie pop outfit wove through their hour long set with renditions out of their Cape Dory and Young and Old albums. While their songs sound typically upbeat and sunny, not all of their songs are happy and carefree. Case in point was the first song of the 7.30 pm set, ‘It All Feels the Same’, which dealt with relationship disappointments.
Whether crooning about relationship ups or downs, Tennis’ performance was far from being intolerably cute. Instead, it was rather low-key and restrained. In his flower print shirt, Patrick would hunch over his guitar and break into one-leg hops across different songs. Meanwhile, in her zebra print top and leather skirt get-up, Alaina would sway gently to the music while singing behind her keyboard or on the centre stage.
While the low-key approach failed to give more cheerful tunes such as 'Pigeon' and 'Water Birds' an uplift of energy, the approach did work for more sober tunes such as 'My Better Self' and 'Origins'. Indeed, 'My Better Self' provided one of the more memorable moments in the concert. In encouraging the audience to dance along with the song, Alaina asked the audience to imagine being in a “school dance challenge show”. Singing against the backdrop of calm blue light, Alaina appeared magical. Her hair, whose frizzy quality she had earlier attributed to Singapore’s weather, only added charms.
The songstress was charming as ever in her banters with the audience. When a fan screamed excitedly at the start of 'Never to Part', she dedicated the song to the screaming fan. She also joked how James kept getting mistaken as Grizzly Bear’s Edward Droste. In recounting the history of 'Marathon', she spoke of being terrified of her first night sail with Patrick, only for him to assure her that the story would make a great song at the end.
That night, the three-year-old band played two brand new songs to the crowd: ‘Dimming Light’ and one that was tentatively titled ‘Teena Marie’. The former sounded typically of Tennis, while the latter was surprisingly refreshing. With its bluesy take and heavier edge, ‘Teena Marie’ diverged from the typical sunny, upbeat structure of Tennis’ songs. Unfortunately, with the songs coming across muffled through the sound system, it was hard to make out what Alaina was singing about. The poor audio mix also led to the loss of the wall of sound quality that was dominant in their records.
It is yet to be seen how Tennis will evolve in the future. Perhaps they will retain their sunny beats. Perhaps they will continue moving towards the harder edge sounds, as indicated in ‘Teena Marie’. Fans will also appreciate the continued growth of stage confidence in the band’s live performance. Hopefully, in their next visit to Singapore, Tennis’ performance will be much more energetic and spontaneous with a tinge of surprise. Given how much potential the band has, it could only mean advantage to Tennis.