ALO, The Belly Up, Solana Beach, CA & House of Blues, West Hollywood- 10/7 & 10/8
Coming on the heels of their summer opening for Jack Johnson at many amphitheatres across the country, Animal Liberation Orchestra’s club tour was met with high anticipation. People traveled from all over California and beyond for two shows over the weekend of October 7 and 8 at The Belly Up in Solana Beach and the House of Blues in West Hollywood. These two nights proved a catalyst for the blossoming scene surrounding the band.
ALO has been so hot throughout the past couple years they seem to set a new standard every time they play. Anything less than spectacular sticks out, so even though The Belly Up was still a blast, it wasn’t the bomb. The first set was relatively vanilla featuring seven songs from their current album Fly Between Falls. The highlights were a typically transcendental reading of “The Gardener” and the peaking set closer, “Animal Liberation.”
Things opened up in the second set thanks to a crowd-pleasing run of classic tunes. “Kolomana” laid down its interstellar groove with typical precision. When the quirky strut of “Nacho Monkey” rolled out of the speakers, the more discerning fans were finally appeased. Sensing the need to continue the excursion from the ordinary, ALO busted out one of their funkiest covers, Jimmy Smith’s “Root Down.” Steve Adams’ slingshot bass navigated the band through eleven minutes of locked-in improv. Swirling along with Smith-esque keyboard vamps, Zach Gill injected a nugget of the Cream’s “I Feel Free,” inspiring a triumphant interlude in the middle of the jam.
The rest of the set kept the energy high with an excellent version of “Shapeshifter”, the enrapturing “Busy Killing Time” and perennially scorching set closer, “Hot Tub.” Dan Lebowitz’s guitar solo was extra jazzy and experimental as he toyed with a new tone. Taking the brilliant suggestion from a determined group of request-happy fans, ALO encored with Lionel Ritchie’s “Easy Like Sunday Morning.” Gill’s sublime voice was an elixir for the entire room as the band hit every note with great sincerity. Minutes after the band left the stage the audience continued to chant the chorus with deep affection.
Planting the seed while jamming together at the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Minnesota a few months ago, ALO was a natural choice to open Particle’s five-year anniversary performance. The celebration has become an annual tradition and the joyous buzz was evident as the “Particle People” converged with the “Phreaks.” Taking the majestic House of Blues stage at 9 sharp, ALO showed off their remarkable ability to milk a short set for all it’s worth. Beginning with “Monday,” a song one can visual rocking a sold-out arena, it was instantly clear the band was “on.”
If Animal Liberation Orchestra has a flagship song it would have to be “Barbeque.” They play it at almost every show but no one seems to mind because it is so darned good. The lyric, “Welcome to your barbeque where you roast all the dreams that never came true” really speaks to people; Just one of several profound and insightful lines. After sticking to a limited script most of the summer playing opening sets, the ALO faithful collectively yearned for a deep cut. The band served up “Fly” on a silver platter with the addition of Richard Townsend on guitar. It was absolutely gorgeous as it unfolded elegantly on the wings of drummer David Brogan’s passionate lyrics.
Displaying their versatility, the quartet showcased a humorous song called “Do You Like My Pecs?” Proving that nothing is taken for granted, they gave the brief ditty a regal treatment in the vein of Queen. The highlight of the night for many was their dominant Steely Dan cover, “The Fez.” Feeding off the pulsing mass of bodies on the dance floor, the band delved deep into the L.A. funk.
After the obligatory “Girl” and “Walls of Jericho,” the haunting opening chords of “Time is of the Essence” swept over the seething crowd. As the vocals melted away and the jam began to take hold, the House of Blues held its collective breath. Braced for the inevitable release following mountainous tension, ALO had us right where they wanted us. Finishing off the set with their Japanese song, “Haji Mi Mashde,” induced further pandemonium. “We’re ALO and we came to play for you.” Indeed you did. Next time it will be longer.