Tennis at Oakland’s Fox Theater, April 26, 2023

Photos by Nadine Ordaz, review by Walker Price.

Tennis is a band whose reputation cannot help but precede them. Ask anyone under the age of 27 with at least one piece of Carhartt clothing their thoughts on Tennis, and nine times out of ten they (I) will not bat an eye as they tell you that “I Miss That Feeling” is one of the best songs ever written. The tenth will tell you about Roger Federer, I’m sure, but they’re an outlier and should not be considered statistically significant. The band, comprised of married couple Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, recently put out their latest full length – Pollen – the relevance of which Moore was quick to point out on stage, simultaneously lamenting and celebrating the tour’s coincidence with the dastardly superbloom that is surely filling the world’s Zyrtec executives with glee. This tour found Tennis joined by loving, a band whose sound can, due mostly to their use of a slide and a harmonica, be loosely placed within the echelon of the alt-country revival the US is experiencing. There were five people on that stage, unclear whether they had coordinated their outfits to echo a Wes Anderson short film, producing a collection of sounds that answered the age-old question – what if an AI wrote Sky Blue Sky? Their set fell upon a respectfully subdued audience, drifting from song to song without much to delineate the notches of the setlist. Loving’s set was short, and though the songs themselves certainly took their time, the tight 35 minutes did not drag on. Loving was onstage, playing music, and then they weren’t.

25 minutes passed between the end of loving’s set and when Moore and Riley, joined by a bassist and drummer, took the stage. This near half-hour saw the crowd increase exponentially in both size and energy. When Tennis walked onstage, a roar erupted both louder and more effusive than anything either stage or crowd produced prior. The duo wasted little time, launching into hook-filled, ear-candy power pop which, flanked by the psychedelic visuals projected behind the band and the duo’s haircuts, cemented the fact that this is a band stuck in the seventies – yet somehow doing it so right. I think their ability to pull it off may stem from the lack of the self-pitying wrong-generation vibe that so many bands trying to do the same thing with various decades cannot help but foster, combined with their undeniable musical chops and chemistry. You cannot really help but melt as Moore and Riley sit facing each other at pianos and play the most tear-jerking, ass-shaking song you’ve ever heard. 

Tennis’s set mimicked a sine wave; for almost every punchier, more upbeat song, there was a slower, almost gut-wrenchingly beautiful crooner that highlighted Moore’s stupendous vocals. The audio engineer of the Fox deserves special recognition here, as well, I cannot remember the last time I went to a show where the production was notable in the band’s favor. Seriously. Toward the end of their set, Moore took some time to not only greet the crowd, but invite a Q & A from them on the secret to a good marriage. OK. Moore singled out one fan, front and center in the crowd, after asking one such question, to say that she recognized them from the past six nights of tour, standing in the same spot in different cities. Moore dubbed them her ‘talisman,’ proclaiming good luck emanating from this person, a stabilizer in a sea of unfamiliar people. Moore dedicated the final song of their pre-encore set, 2020’s standout “Need Your Love,” to this fan, a move so undeniably sweet that multiple screams erupted from the crowd at this, only succeeded by more as people began to identify the song. Tennis was stupendous, their set, nigh on ninety minutes, felt meticulously crafted, not a single song could have been removed from it and created the same experience.