After a string of EP releases and compilation releases, Aly & AJ returned in 2021 with their third studio album ‘A Touch Of The Beat Gets You Up On Your Feet Gets You Out and Then In The Sun’ and with a string of tour dates following suit, including an evening at London’s finest O2 Shepherds Bush Empire.
We’d seen the girls in 2019, shortly after the release of ‘Sanctuary’ and even though it’s only been three years, it feels like the girls are at a completely different stage musically. They opened their show with album track ‘Break Yourself’ –walking on the stage with a grace and air of coolness.
The setlist was pretty jam packed with new tracks and if you’re a fan of the ‘Sanctuary’ EP, you would be disappointed as the four tracks on that release were omitted, however, we were treated to a string of new songs from their forthcoming album including the gorgeous new single ‘With Love From’, which features a woeful and thought-provoking middle eight. The track is magically hypnotic and has a wonderful narrative stream of consciousness starting with the girls singing “I’m hiding out in Missouri, not happy anywhere” to the closing “that’s why I wrote you with love from Missouri.” Another new track that sounded insatiable was ‘Blue Dress.’ One we’ll be checking out when the album arrives in Spring no doubt.
The show seemed like it was of two parts – the girls are incredibly talented musicians and it’s weird to not know this considering our first images of the girls were them holding guitars. Throughout the set, Aly made her way through almost every instrument on the stage – she hit the keyboards for crowd pleaser ‘Promises’ and had a tambourine on the go for the beautiful and sombre ‘Dead on the Beach’ (a painstaking duet between AJ and their guitarist!). They changed guitars during the set like most Vegas performers change their costume. It was magnetic, energetic and really thought-evoking.
Lyrically, the girls are shining stronger than ever before, aforementioned with ‘With Love From’ but ‘Stomach’ really came alive live whilst the girls sang “I just can’t stomach being your ex-wife”, the need for adventure on ‘Pretty Places’ and the Lockdown love song ‘Slow Dancing.’.
If there were a criticism, it’s only minor. There was a real lack of older tracks. Fans of ‘Rush’, ‘Chemical React’ or ‘Like Whoa’ would be disappointed – even with the newly recorded versions of the latter two. Instead, the only nod to their past music was the album track ‘Insomniatic’ – a lovely song but quite strange when the girls billed it as “let’s go back to some of our older music” and performed what is essentially a random album track. Perhaps one day we’ll get a ‘Blush’ outing or ‘Greatest Time of Year’.
If there’s one thing the girls did showcase at O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, they are the real deal. They packed a great show full of wonderful album tracks and really deciphered who Aly & AJ are. They rock, they sing, and we cannot wait to see what they bring next.