Tennis has a story. A creation story as good as its vintage, succinct nautical ditties are melodic. Like Justin Vernon’s log-cabin reclusion engendered, and perhaps launched, “For Emma For Ever Ago”, Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore’s sailboat sojourn inspired and provided the material for their debut record “Cape Dory”. Only eight months since the group’s inception, the duo is already a critical darling.
Backed by a drummer, the couple played New York’s Bowery Ballroom Wednesday night. But they seemed to lean on him too heavily for energy, aside from Riley’s isolated animation. Their performance sounded accurate, but perfunctory. Nonetheless, Moore’s vocals were gorgeous, clear, effortless, and smooth. Riley’s reverb-drenched Telecaster perfectly complemented the frequent “whoa oh’s”, usually with some sort of contrapuntal line. “Marathon” was attempted with backup vocals from both openers La Sera and Holiday Shores, but wavering intonation on harmony hampered the effort. Tennis’ last song, “Hard Times”, emphasized their lack of dynamics-as well as their musical efficiency.