I looked back on my review of ALO’s show at the Fillmore
during Tour ‘d Amour IV in 2010. It’s opens by describing them as a band that is all about being “Fun”. I supposed at the time that was the correct adjective to use, it summed them up, and while it’s a very limiting description, for that era in their career I think it was spot on. They were fun and in so many ways still are. I do not think I’d use that description today and frankly it’s not because they lack the ability to command an audience with joyous abandon. It’s because they approach their music with a level of seriousness that balances their mastering of live showmanship, crisp playing, savvy set-lists and interplay with their ever-growing fan-base that puts them on a level that has them growing as a group exponentially. Every February comes with it ALO’s Tour d’ Amour, a jaunt around California for nearly 3 weeks and with it closing shows at The Fillmore in San Francisco. Last weekend and they capped off one of their most impressive tours of late with three amazing shows. This tour signifies ALO’s special relationship with their California fans and the fact that they are in studio making a new album right now, their chemistry might’ve just been tighter than usual and yet they approached these shows as laid back as ever yet in the process made a statement that will foreshadow their entire year of in music for 2015 onward.
|Photo: Susan Weiand|
Let’s start with the bad, they are celebrating the 10th anniversary of Fly Between Falls, the seminal ALO album, the go to, the one you give to your buddy when turning them onto the band. One disappointing fact is that they did not play Fly Between Falls in it’s entirety, that is from the first track to the last. They included every song, kind of, as they added in the bonus track “Possibly Drown” from the Japanese release, but to be fair it was a rare bust out and it translates into the live setting perfectly as its a very rockin’ piano led dancing song. Sound familiar, sounds like ALO to me. They also threw in their rendition “Our Favorite Things” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music, ALO uses this song from time to time to jam out heavily and fill the gap between two tracks with spacey guitar riffs laid down by Lebo and psychedelic keyboard fills from Zach, this “Favorite Things” was dark and powerful and was placed perfectly in the middle of a likewise jam-friendly “Shapeshifter”. By this time the room was getting really full and I thought back to before the show when Steve Adams had mentioned to me that ahead of this notable concert, he was just glad to see the house full of people ready to enjoy themselves, and even though it wasn’t sold out yet, he said that as a fan he felt that it made for a better concert experiment, more room to dance. “To see that band that you love when you have some room to move and get down.” I would have to agree. But it did fill up as tickets sold at the door and as far as the night was concerned, the more the merrier! Another point that stuck out was that their Saturday Matinee Kids Sing-Along concert was selling more presale tickets than both of the other shows. This to me just shows that the band hit the right note when they decided to put on such a concert, and eventually we will get to the details of that, the show I call Living Under the Sea in a Plastic Bubble….
|Photo: Susan Weiand|
The second set saw the return of Carly Meyers from Yojimbo, as she played trombone on for “Chilly Chile”, which also was heavy on the space as it seemed as if all the friends from Terrapin Crossroads showed up to celebrate with Jason Crosby playing the violin, Cochrane McMillan adding a second layer of keys throughout and the great Stu Allen on Guitar. The five song second set was pure space and the “Walls of Jericho” showed the culmination of it all. And this is where I feel that that the band has grown, and what they have grown into. 5 years have past since I coined them as just “Fun”. Now they are in my very humble opinion a very fun band, just with the chops to jam out an entire set with guests lining up at stage right and left to lend an instrumental hand to the type of precision that is ALO2015. Every thing they do is fun, this trap they will never escape. Living Under the Sea in a Plastic Bubble A.K.A., the matinee kids show on the next afternoon was a dream come true to hundreds of balloon chasing little ones and parents a like. The Fillmore was the chillest I’ve ever seen it as they allowed everyone to run in each and every direction, dance like animals and if it may be so, live under the sea, in an Octopus’ Garden near a cave. The Ringo penned Beatles tune was one of many animal themed songs for the kids show that at $10 was a steal. The room packed with laughter, the show lasting over an hour with the T Sisters and ALO teaming up all in costumed regalia, Large Fur Hats and all, it was a success and my kids and their friends left begrudgingly, “is it really over?”, as Zach Gill announced over the P.A., “This is the first time we’ve ever done a kids show, and I know it wont be our last.” They should do more of these, that was really fun and I have six witnesses to collaborate my story.
The last night of the this three show shindig, wrapping up the beautiful Tour d’ Amour saw a number of newer tunes from Sounds Like This and I Love Music, and classics from Roses and Clover and their 10 year classic Time Expander album.
Highlights from the night included a Lebo led “Try” during the first set that led into an “Animal Liberation”. The second set had all the hits with a very spooky and highly sought after “Kolomana” with the pageantry and theatrics that only Zach, Dan, Dave and Steve can bring. With a witch-doctor like broomstick and other stage tricks on hand, musically the song built and built to a beautiful crescendo and then dropped into the great lyrical story of the shaman from Hawaii, “Kolomana”. The Honeydrops sat in on many songs, as well as Ross James and Nicki Bluhm adding to the shows enormity.
The night’s theme was “Love Potion #”9 and ended with a great 1-2 punch of “LP#9” with Bluhm adding in on vocals and then a perfect “Lady Loop” to send the crowd, band, and tour off into the cool San Francisco night.
|Photo: Susan Weiand|
As we wait for Tour d’ Amour X, the rest of 2015 will be a BIG year for this band. They lit it off with a smoking tour of the state of California and are already slated to play and or headline The Ville Music Festival in Ohio over Memorial Day Weekend, and then their annual digs, High Sierra over the 4th of July and finally the Petaluma Music Festival and more. With a new album, and this deeper exploration as the Incidental Animals are slated to appear at Terrapin Crossroads for a headlining show and for a Phil Lesh combo show, it looks like busy means fun to this quartet, and fun is precisely what they are. Preciously Fun, and to me that is as limitless as the music they make.
Set One: (Fly Between Falls): BBQ, Possibly Drown, Pobrecito, Girl, Spectrum, Shapeshifter > My Favorite Things > Shapeshifter, Gardener, Waiting for Jaden, Fly, Wasting Time
Set Two: Room For Bloomin’, I Wanna Feel It, Chilly Chile, Woodstock, Maria
Encore: Walls of Jericho
[Notes: All of Fruition joined ALO for “Woodstock.” Carly Meyers sat in on trombone for “Girl.” Stu Allen guested on guitar during “Chilly Chile,” Jason Crosby and Cochrane McMillan lent a hand on a number of tunes throughout the night.]
Set One: Blew Out The Walls, Was a Time, Falling Dominoes, Cowboys and Chorus Girls, Saturday Night, Try, Animal Liberation
Set Two: I Love Music, Old Yet, Hot Tub, Fire, Kolomana, Sounds Like This, Time Is Of The Essence
Encore: Love Potion #9/Lady Loop
[Notes: Nicki Bluhm sang on “Saturday” and “Love Potion.” Deren Ney played guitar on “Saturday,” Ross James guested on guitar for “Hot Tub” and “Love Potion.” Marty Ylitano & T Sisters helped out on “Fire” and “Love Potion,” the latter also featured Free Range Horns and members of California Honeydrops (Lorenzo Loera, Johnny Bones, Ben Malament). The horns also added to “Try” and “Animal Liberation.”]