Saturday night’s performance at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium embodied each aspect necessary to achieve just that. Pre-show laughter, buzzing conversation and sharing of extra curriculars went on to sounds of The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love over the PA system before the band took the stage to rousing applause. Waving and chatting with some rail-riding die-hards were exchanged, and the group confidently dove right into the synthed-out funk of Hot Tub, a lengthy, appropriate selection.
“So we were in Tahoe trying to figure out the best song to kick this show off with,” said Gill following the tune. “Something not too slow, not too fast, perfect for San Francisco.” Then he asked if it was a good choice to which everyone vehemently agreed. A Santa Barbara band with a decade’s worth of west coast shows under their belts, Gill and Co. hide nothing when it comes to expressing their love of the Golden State, as evidenced by the night’s enhanced, California-centric banter and thoughtful pre-show planning.
The tropical, back patio vibe of old staple Pobrecito, All Alone and Barbeque’s up-tempo jives and smooth reggae sounds of Don’t Touch My Stuff (off Gill’s solo album) followed, creating that ever-present visual of bobbing heads and shoulders to match the swinging long hair and skirts.
The four musicians have always performed tightly and aggressively but never toured with the frequency or distance of other jam/groove counterparts. The noticeable hints of excitement and rejuvenation in the first set exemplified just how glad they were to be back on stage together, after significant time spent on solo efforts.
While the Bay Area certainly loves ALO, a little Grateful Dead flavor is always welcome in the live music recipe and, more often than not, relevant bands cater to the craving. So when the group invited RatDog guitarist and San Francisco native Mark Karan on stage during the second set, the decision was met with genuine, heartfelt applause. Along with RatDog, Karan has dabbled with a significant amount of groups in the jam scene, evidenced by how well he complimented Lebo’s electro-acoustic guitar licks and ALO as a whole during the stand in that included takes on Plastic Bubble and Lady Loop.
Perhaps ALO’s most impressive characteristic in 2010’s short existence is the seamlessness with which their new material melds its way into the setlist. February 9 marked the release of their third album, Man of the World, and the songs that at first listen sound perfect for the live setting – States of Friction, Big Appetite, I Love Music and the title track – were showcased well on Saturday. Each track is distinctly ALO – a deep pocket bassline, head nodding flow and hazy aura – without coming across as nostalgic or unoriginal. The fresh batch is welcoming and, with a few explorations going beyond the 10-minute mark, supply just enough jam to satisfy the palate.
To answer the common question of what it’s like to see a specific band live, in ALO’s case an accurate comparison would be like the first time you ever landed into a feather bed. The music’s satisfaction envelops and comforts you while you think to yourself: “I never want to leave.”
But when the encore’s last notes of crowd favorite Maria ended everyone finally had to. Not before, however, those newfound connections made throughout the night exchanged phone numbers and shared genuine goodbye hugs.