Being a Colorado native, I’ve seen Tennis live more than any other band. This has allowed me to follow along as the band has seasoned as performers. On Tuesday, May 12, I got to notch another concert to that count as the Denver outfit swung through DC for a show at the U Street Music Hall.
“Never Work for Free” started the proceedings, presumably as a hat tip to the band’s troubling financial snub at the hands of a European hotelier. You could tell the band was sinking their claws into the instruments more than usual during a hopefully cathartic performance.
Making an earlier appearance in the set list than usual was “Marathon”, which found itself costumed mainly in guitars instead of keys. “Mean Streets” also found some live tweaks as both the intro and outro of the song were wonderfully extended and luxuriated in. Many others songs, like the meatier guitar solo on “It All Feels the Same”, featured certain section and instrumental parts playfully beefed up.
The looser performances and recorded version deviations seem to be results of both Tennis’s veteran performer status and a fuller live band than I’ve seen them play with before. The core, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, were joined by new faces behind the drums and bass as well as an extra backup vocalist and keyboardist. This gave the band a little more leash to play with vocally and instrumentally.
At this point I’ve seen enough Tennis shows to know that they will always bring it. For me the question isn’t will Tennis put on a good show, but how they’ll make that show good. Questions like, what classic will poke it’s head out? An ambrosial rendition of “Waterbirds” in this case. What song will have a makeover? Show-closer “Bad Girls” blew the room away in its “demo version” of only guitar and vocals. I’ve found that the more I see Tennis, the more they show me.