Published Dec 14, 2011"For a weekday, this is phenomenal," gushed Tennis vocalist Alaina Moore a couple of songs into her band's set. She wasn't kidding. Despite the fact that it was a Tuesday, the Biltmore was packed, and judging by the excitement in the room, the rest of the work week was the last thing on everyone's mind.
The room was already full by the time opener Devon Williams hit the stage. The Slumberland songwriter was joined by four backing musicians -- all of whom were similarly dressed with button-down shirts and sporting floppy fringes -- including local favourite Johnny Payne (the Shilohs) on drums. Williams's tunes blended sensitive indie pop with triumphant heartland rock, à la Tom Petty, and his jangly guitar tone sounded a bit like he had stolen a pedal from the Byrds' effects rig. The set didn't pack much of a punch, partly due to Williams's awkward demeanour, but the sunny tunes did serve as a fitting primer for the night's main attraction.
Tennis took the stage sounding fuller and tighter than the last time they came through town, something that was partly thanks to the presence of a fourth member sitting in on keys. The band opened with the cheerful "Seafarer" from this year's Cape Dory, but it wasn't until they moved into new material that the set truly gained momentum.
The performance was heavy on cuts from the forthcoming Young and Old, and these songs suggested that the group have been spending a lot of time listening to vintage soul as of late. "Petition" was a particular standout, as Moore abandoned her keyboard to sing centrestage while her husband Patrick Riley switched his silver Telecaster for a baritone guitar in order to lay down a thick, bass-y groove.
The set ended with the audience calling the group back for a one-song encore of "South Carolina." And while this previously released fan favourite made for an upbeat finish, the evening's most lasting impression was that there could be even greater things in store for Tennis in the near future.