Aly & AJ
Upstate Concert Hall
Clifton Park, NY
May 16th, 2019
One of the better things about growing up and getting older is growing into your own tastes and preferences. You like what you like and your “guilty pleasures” become just “pleasures.”
I’m sure I’m one of many who thought they were too good or too cool for pop music when they were in high school and just thought they were above it because they knew better or they liked “actual good music.” Ugh.
Meanwhile, these artists are moving hundreds of thousands of copies and selling out amphitheaters and you just sit there passing on it. Well, let me be the first to say that maybe those millions of adoring fans were on to something. Who would have thought?
What I’m trying to get at is that over the last few years, and now at the ripe old age of 27, I am hitting my pop peak. And I don’t know that I could have picked a better time (excluding the 90’s boy band era, obviously).
Over the last few weeks Aly & AJ have made a strong push towards the front of the pack. Along with the release of their recent comeback EP Sanctuary, their New York stop on the Sanctuary Tour put them in a deserving leading spot.
Before handing the evening off to the headliner, opener ARMORS made the best of their time and brought an upbeat, bright sound and a sense of humor to the start of the night. Typically, an artist is the one who risks feeling unwelcome somewhere, but when thanking the crowd for coming out early, a few scattered boos rang out at the mention of Clifton Park. As a local attendee, I can vouch that there are people from here that don’t really like… here. “Well, you guys might not like it here,” joked vocalist Olen Kittelsen during a break, “but we love it and we love you guys and we’d love to have you come back if you let us come back.”
By the time the intermission lights eventually faded out, the chants of “ALY! AJ! ALY! AJ!” had already been going on for a good five to ten minutes. And when they finally stepped on stage, the chants switched to applause and even though they had gone away for a while, as well as it being their first time in the area, they were welcomed to town like old friends.
The night began with a pair of songs from the Sanctuary EP – album opener “Church” followed by standout “Star Maps,” both of which brought a hum to the crowd. With only a week or two before to get acquainted with the new material, it didn’t seem to faze anybody, with the room singing the new tracks like they were past favorites. The three remaining pieces from the new release – “Not Ready to Wake Up,” “Don’t Go Changing,” and “Sanctuary,” all made appearances scattered throughout the setlist.
The two sisters stayed put at their marks for the first couple of new songs, eventually moving more and more during “Closure” and through the end of the set. That isn’t to say the night started poorly, just a bit stationary. As the evening continued on, things rose from good to great, finding high marks during the likes of “Promises,” “The Distance,” and “Take Me” before closing out with the clear fan-favorite choice “Potential Breakup Song.”
I regret missing out on lots of really great, fun music for a while. But there’s something satisfying about coming around to it now and being able to appreciate it more than I probably would have before. And in this instance, being around for a revival period of sorts, I get to not only go back and discover how good some of these artists are, but see where they go from here.
For Aly & AJ, the pieces are all there. The Sanctuary EP is a synth-pop triumph and a cut above where most pop music sits. And with the live show they bring to the stage, the sisters are poised for another wave of success. Lucky for me, I’ve smartened up and I’m coming along for the ride this time. And to anybody who may have had that same mindset that I did, I hope you’ve outgrown it too. If so, I’ll save you a spot on the bandwagon; hopefully it comes back through town again sometime soon.
Don’t Go Changing
Not Ready to Wake Up
Slow Burn (cover)
Potential Breakup Song
Remaining Sanctuary Tour dates:
May 22 – Silver Spring, MD – The Fillmore
May 24 – Atlanta, GA – Heaven at the Masquerade
May 25 – Nashville, TN – Cannery Ballroom
May 28 – Cleveland, OH – House of Blues
May 29 – Detroit, MI – Majestic Theatre
May 30 – Milwaukee, WI – Turner Hall Ballroom
May 31 – Minneapolis, MN – Varsity Theater
June 7 – Dallas, TX – Canton Hall
June 8 – Houston, TX – White Oak Music Hall
June 9 – Austin, TX – Mohawk
June 11 – Phoenix, AZ – The Van Buren
June 14 – Denver, CO – Gothic Theatre
June 16 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Complex
June 18 – Vancouver, BC, CA – Commodore
June 19 – Seattle, WA – Neptune Theatre
June 20 – Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom
June 22 – Pleasanton, CA – Alameda County Fair
June 23 – Anaheim, CA – House of Blues
June 25 – San Diego, CA – The Observatory
June 26 – Los Angeles, CA – Fonda Theatre
June 27 – Los Angeles, CA – Fonda Theatre