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Where you read it first | Saturday, June 22, 2024

Tennis brings love to the House of Blues

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Tennis is pictured at the House of Blues.

Romance between band members is a tale as old as time — as old as music, at least — and it usually doesn’t end well. Take ABBA, The Mamas and the Papas, The White Stripes or the ubiquitous Fleetwood Mac. But Tennis, an indie pop duo made up of husband and wife Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, is a lovely exception who seem to have cracked the code to marriage and music. On tour for their sixth album, “Pollen” (2023), released on Feb. 10, they brought their ballads to the House of Blues on April 3. 

The show, after an opening act by Kate Bollinger, began with “One Night with The Valet” (2023), a fitting place to start given it was the first single released from “Pollen” and is about the couple’s romance, the central theme of their music and of this show.  So many love songs are sad songs about broken hearts and yearning desires. Tennis’ music is about love too, but it’s about what love feels like when it works. 

“I’m tempted by the face of love / I feel it coming like a flood … I could never get enough … You get yours from us / My baby in a physical world / Tell me you get yours from us,” Moore crooned in “One Night with the Valet,” her pleasantly piercing voice even clearer in person. 

Moore spent the first two songs seated at a midstage piano, facing her husband across the stage on guitar. Before “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar” (2016) Moore got up from her seat and moved over to a second, upright piano facing the audience. Despite it being the Pollen Tour, Tennis consistently moved back and forth through time during the show, playing songs from their over 10-year career. “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar” is a fun, swinging song with a deeper meaning — Moore has stated the sarcastic title is an homage to “the invisible way gender has shaped me. Like the fact that I was taught to play piano instead of electric guitar (my favorite instrument) largely due to the accident of my being female.”

But Moore certainly doesn’t let her gender prevent her from commanding the stage, and she ran the show the whole time. She thanked fans for coming out on a Monday night.

“We have a new record out, Pollen, and I’m celebrating by having an allergy attack during tour,” Moore joked to the audience. “It’s very on brand for me.” 

They played “Runner,” from their 2020 album “Swimmer,” and spent some time bouncing between “Swimmer,” “Pollen” and their older stuff too. They also bounced around the stage — Moore went back and forth between the seated piano and the standing piano, and she even took center stage a couple times, singing and dancing along at the front while Riley manned the keys.

Launching into “How to Forgive” (2020), Moore seemed to be settling in. “Hit it, boys!” she announced to Riley and their band before heading to her microphone in the middle of stage. With a fun, slinky walk across the stage and a loose way of dancing, she was clearly having fun. 

Moore took a break to share with fans that she and Riley have been married for over a decade, about as long as they’ve been making music. With a playful energy that matched the moxie she had the rest of the show, she asked the audience, “Who has any questions for me about how to have a long-term partnership?” Someone asked how they met and why they wrote an album about it, and Moore happily launched into the story. 

Both students at the University of Colorado in Denver, where they still live, Moore waited tables at “the only” Jewish deli in the city and Riley worked nights as a hotel valet. He came in on the mornings after his shift, and she served him, though they never spoke. But, he remembered her, and they ended up in a philosophy class together. 

Their story sounds like something out of a movie — especially the fact that they went on an eight-month sailing trip after graduating and subsequently wrote their first album, “Cape Dory” (2011), about it. So much of their music depicts the bliss that love brings. But Moore doesn’t believe in ‘the one,’ she said, and she advised the audience on the importance of “fighting to be deserving of their love and constantly earning it, not just getting comfortable with it.” 

Someone asked what their favorite things about each other are: Moore said how hard Riley works, and Riley said Moore’s desire to learn constantly. Another audience member asked their favorite thing to do together; Moore said it’s skateboarding but it used to be riding bikes.

She ran this whole section, making a joke about Riley’s background role.

“We have this Penn and Teller thing going where I speak for him. … When he gets a microphone he slips into accents, it’s best avoided,” Moore chuckled, before getting back to the music.

They played three more songs, “Let’s Make a Mistake Tonight” (2023), “Pollen Song” (2023) and “Need Your Love” (2020), before waving, blowing some kisses and heading off. The audience launched into shouts for an encore, and they obliged with “I’ll Haunt You” (2020), one of the best song performances of the night. Moore introduced the band and sang “My Better Self” (2011) and “Glorietta” (2023) before leaving for the night. 

Overall, Tennis gave an excellent performance. Moore certainly brings the theatricality while Riley brings the subtle support, but they felt like a power couple throughout the show. Moore’s singing talent and the lyricism in the pair’s music is not to be understated; both were only more apparent at the show.

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