Don’t Go Changing: Aly & AJ Take Sanctuary At London’s Scala July 11

The Disney Channel is responsible for a wide birth of talent…I could spend hours talking about Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez, Bridgit Mendler, Miley Cyrus…you name it…There’s been a slight resurgence in nostalgia this year with the comebacks of Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus but one underrated Disney duo is Aly & AJ – now they have long dropped their ties to Disney and have been out fielding their own music path in the last year or two…the sound is a nice progressive change for them…nothing too crazy and out there…it’s a more mature Aly & AJ and they finally brought themselves to the UK after 12 years (and even then it was one club gig; not even a proper show). In the UK we have been deprived of seeing ‘Chemicals React’ or ‘Greatest Time of Year’ live; sadly we still are, however we got the girls in their full glory and some other great tracks.

Scala was packed. I’ve never been to the venue before and managed to squeeze my way to the third row… now the girls were on late… it wasn’t until 9.30pm that the girls hit the stage with a highly smoky staging and ‘Church’… it really is the perfect show opener with it’s haunting “I do bad things for the sake of good times”. A true defiant opener and a nice hello from the girls… they bewildered us with tracks from their two EPs ‘Ten Years’ and ‘Sanctuary’ and staging was minimal but a strong narrative was told from the girls vocals, their lyrics, their dynamics… their sisters but they certainly have a strong bond. There were some tracks I was really excited to witness live – ‘Promises’ for one as it feels like a horror movie every time I listen to it; so to engage with it live was just as haunting and terrifying and with an added audience participation of the series of “ooh” that is chanted throughout the song… it was a great performance and exceeded it’s recorded version, title track ‘Sanctuary’ is a glorious little number with one of the best melodies and lyric “you’re my north star; I will follow you to take me home”… the track is a love letter to the fans who have been patient and with the girls from the beginning…surprisingly ‘With You’ was absolutely magical live…I wasn’t a big fan of the recorded version, but the live rendition was so magical and wonderful and unique and bizarre… the track is all over the place sonically and live just works… sorry to repeat myself but…magical.

The girls have not been shy of their love for the LGBT+ community; proceeds of the tour are going towards LGBT+ charity The Trevor Project and they wrote their track ‘Good Love’ for the LGBT+ community and featured a series of different LBGT+ performers in the video for their recent track ‘Star Maps’ – a bombastic and toe-tapping number about the pressures of Hollywood. They’ve never been shy about their adoration for the community… even back in 2007 they felt no pressure to play at G-A-Y.

The set was based around the new material; however there were older tracks performed (not ‘Greatest Time of Year’ sadly) – ‘Rush’, a fiery debut single, if ever there was one and a perfect track to get you up and dancing.‘No One’ was a lovely addition to the set and relied on the girls playing their guitars with a stream of lights from people’s phones… and of course… “the one you’re all waiting to hear”, as the girls introduced ‘Potential Break-up Song’… it’s undeniable how wonderful the track is… even 12 years later…the mini rock stars in all of us come seething out at the one and the memory of a dickhead lover who can’t even remember to get a birthday present.

Aly & AJ impressively stormed the stage for an hour and 15 minutes and had the audience captivated throughout… their unique soundtrack and lyrical content mixed with their staging is magnificent to watch and draws you in… from beginning to end… I wouldn’t know what to expect from an Aly & AJ show… and the response is mystery and a high level of great quality pop music.

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