Tennis at the Royale, 11/08

by Jill Yum

“What a sight for sore eyes,” said Tennis’ Alaina Moore, looking out over a packed crowd at Boston’s Royale. Boston has been eagerly waiting for Tennis to return, since the pandemic forced the duo to cancel their show scheduled for April 2020 – and a glorious return it was. Tennis fans filled out the floor and balconies of the spacious venue, which, when I arrived, was buzzing with an excited energy. 

I’ll admit that I came into the show already obsessed with opener Molly Burch, and somehow left the show even more of a groupie. Burch kicked off the night with “Control,” which also opens her 2021 album, Romantic Images. Accompanied by guitarist/keyboardist Dailey Toliver and drummer Tom Washburn, Burch’s voice shines. I was never quite sold on her cover of Ariana Grande’s “needy” until seeing it live at the Royale. Burch’s voice is rich and deeply impressive on stage. Someone from the crowd screamed out what we were all thinking: “she does it better than the original!” Burch closed us out with a beautiful performance of “Back in Time,” that I honestly have not shut up about since. 

When Tennis appeared on stage, the crowd was just as ecstatic as, for a desperate lack of literally any better terms to describe the sheer excitement in the room, when the Avengers assembled at the climax of Endgame. With the first chords of “I’ll Haunt You,” the stage was flooded with a golden light, warming us up for an impressive 17-song tour of husband-and-wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley’s expansive body of work. The duo dropped their first album as Tennis in 2011 and have been pretty much unstoppable since, releasing five albums in the following years. Tennis’ most recent album, Swimmer, was released in 2020 and was followed up with another new single, Superstar. Over the past decade, the power couple has carved out a distinctive surf-rock adjacent indie pop sound and an incredible retro aesthetic, from what was one of the coolest lighting sets I’ve seen down to the whole four piece band’s enviable haircuts. 

The couple tore up the stage with “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar,” off of their 2017 album, Yours Conditionally, which has a quintessentially Tennis danceable sound. “My Better Self” from the 2013 release Young & Old was another highlight and a throwback to the duo’s older, indie-rock era. I hadn’t actually listened to much of Tennis’ music beyond Swimmer before the show and now I can’t get enough of these two albums. There’s a delicate balance between nostalgia and yearning, saccharine and icy, that Tennis is able to create that has made especially “My Better Self” a personal favorite. The duo’s hit “Need Your Love” was a crowd favorite for the night, instantly recognizable from the strike of the first chord. From the first breakdown of the chorus to the last time Moore sings out “Thinking about you, I can’t escape you,” the crowd was alive, singing along to every lyric. But the encore is what I can’t stop thinking about. After “Need Your Love,” only Moore and Riley returned to the stage to play stripped down renditions of “Late Night” and “Bad Girls.” It quite literally felt like being tucked into bed with a lullaby. If I wasn’t convinced that the couple should adopt me before, I was fully sold after this encore. 
Tennis took us all on a journey that I will not soon forget. There were perfect notes of beauty, yearning, and joy all wrapped up in what was one epic show. Tennis, the sight of you is good for sore eyes!

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