Show Review: Tennis with Wild Belle at The Independent, 4/30/12

by Dakin Hardwick on May 2, 2012

Regular readers of this site are aware of the fact that I put together a list of recommend shows in the bay area every week. Sometimes weeks it’s easier than others. Sometimes I scour through the schedules of local venues, and I find myself listening to a long list of bands that I’ve never heard before. I’ve uncovered some really good stuff over the years, but, rarely to I find a single song that makes me need to change my schedule around and go out on a Monday night. Was it worth making my way out on a Monday night? Well, your going to have to click that “more” button to to find out how that worked out for me:

Natalie Bergman

The show opened with a set by Wild Belle. Wild Belle are the brother/sister duo of Natalie & Elliot Bergman. They pull together elements is reggae, disco, classic soul and lounge, and repackaged it into one of sexiest sounding bands I’ve heard in a long time. Natalie’s voice is reminiscent of Amy Winehouse, belting out these beautiful songs of heartbreak with an equal balance of swagger, sadness, and aloofness. She barely moves on stage, but whenever she does, she does with a grace and elegance. Elliot alternated between keyboards, guitar, and baritone sax, creating a nice, full, rhythmic sound. Their sound was filled out live with a drummer, bassist, and guitarist. The drummer especially impressed- handling rather difficult time changes all without ever looking like he was about to break a sweat. This was Wild Belle’s first time in San Francisco, and they managed to get more than a few folks grooving to their seductive sound. I hope to see them make their way out west again very soon.

When Tennis graced the stage, I wasn’t entirely sure as to what I to expect. I spent sometime with both of their full length records, Cape Dory and Young & Old, but I didn’t even know what they looked like. My loose research led me to determine that their creative core is the husband and wife duo of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley. Moore handles all of the lead vocals, and Riley plays guitar and keyboards. The live band features a drummer and an extra guitarist. These facts are all, however, quite trivial in regards to the actual music that this band makes.

 Tennis opened their set with the piano driven power pop of “Take Me To Heaven.” It was bright and summery, and kicked of what ended up being the over all theme of the show. The set list was a fairly even balance between both albums, where the sugary indie pop of Cape Dory felt nicely at home alongside the darker tones of Young & Old.  The sold out house, of course, loved every minute of it. This was definitely a fan-oriented crowd, with nearly everyone singing and dancing along to every song. Fans were requesting songs almost as song as the band took the stage. There was even a heckler in the crowd that managed to get an embarrassed grin out of Moore by requesting many other band’s songs, including Jamiroquai and Harvey Danger hits. This heckler was far funnier than he should have been.

Moore, dressed in a denim jacket and flowered denim jeans and huge mane of curly blonde hair, looks the part of a rock n roll front woman. She may be very small in real life, but on stage she looked like a giant. Her stunning voice and larger than life stage presence really was the band. The songs are great, full of blissful, ear wormy hooks, but nothing was more fun than watching this woman work the stage. She owned every minute of the show, whether she was performing from behind the keyboard, or taking center stage. She also was funny, and warm. It’s the perfect balance of performer.

They played a solid 90 minutes of danceable fun that truly made my feel like it wasn’t a Monday.

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