A Touch of California Sun: Aly & AJ at the Roseland Theater

Sister duo Aly and AJ bring the California sunshine to rainy Oregon on their a touch of the beat tour at the Roseland Theater on April 8th. Words by Bren Swogger and photos by Emma Davis.

It had been a cloudy and rainy day leading up to Aly & AJ’s grand return to Portland on April 8th. Clouds socked in much of the city through the morning and into the afternoon. But that evening, pulling up to the venue, blue sky and sunshine shone through.

At their last show in Portland three years ago, touring behind their EP Sanctuary, the two played to a packed house at the Wonder Ballroom. But now, with a full length album in tow—a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun—Aly & AJ upgraded to a bigger space, filling the Roseland Theater with a wild and eager crowd.

Taking the stage just past 9:00, Aly & AJ kicked off with album opener “Pretty Places.” As the sunny golden lights from the stage swept across the room, a wave of joy seemed to come over the crowd. The dreary rain from the Portland day vanished in the music.

“We love this place and we love you guys. It’s great to see your faces,” Aly said. “Tonight, we’re bringing a little bit of California sunshine to you.”

Trading lines and sharing harmonies, their chemistry took up the whole stage and filled the room with unbridled energy. At many points, it felt as if they were simply performing for themselves. There was joy in every movement, and the audience was just lucky enough to watch it all unfold.

Launching into more tracks from their latest record, the duo let the energy rise and fall like a swelling tide, bringing it up with upbeat tracks like “Break Yourself” before slowing it down with dueting acoustic guitar and sweet shared harmonies on “Slow Dancing.”

Though their set was mostly filled with new album tracks, the duo of course found time to throw it back with some classic Aly & AJ cuts, much to the crowd’s delight. The whole room was up on their feet, dancing, swaying and screaming every word as they played their 2005 hits “Chemicals React” and “No One.”

But in between the music, the duo wanted to take a minute to bring attention to two particular organizations very important to them. Asking the crowd to pull out their phones, they urged fans to donate to both The Trevor Project and To Write Love on Her Arms, two organizations dedicated to suicide prevention in the LGBTQ community and beyond.

“We want to donate as much money in this room as we can to both of these organizations,” Aly said. The band had set up a text message based donation system, and the crowd happily obliged.

A short intermission brought an encore to the crowd, kicked off with a rousing cover of fellow sister act Tegan and Sara’s “Closer.” 

In the show’s final crescendo, the last song of the night started slow—Aly on the piano and AJ on vocals—as the duo delivered a sweeping ballad version of fan favorite “Potential Breakup Song”. As the first verse closed, the full band came in, and the energy in the room exploded.

The room shaking as feet hit the floor, and the vocals almost drowned out completely by the sound of the crowd singing along, Aly & AJ set the room ablaze one last time, and provided enough sunshine to last through the rest of the rainy Oregon days to come.

See Emma Davis’s full photo gallery from the show here. Donate to The Trevor Project and To Write Love on Her Arms at thetrevorproject.org and twloha.com. For tour dates, music, and band news, visit alyandaj.com.

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Emma Davis
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