The Pour House
Aug. 23

With their feel-good piano-pop-funk jams, ALO (the Animal Liberation Orchestra) are in the middle of a run of semi-stardom, thanks to two albums and multiple tours with Jack Johnson, with whom they’ve gained an uncanny (and unfortunate) resemblance. Singer Zach Gill serenaded the audience with monotone machinations on barbecues, peanut butter, and other useless and idiotic eighth grade topics.

Bassist Steve Adams, drummer David Brogan, and guitarist Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz sang a few tunes, adding some much-needed variety, although the goofy songwriting was consistent. They were tight. Lebo’s solos brought the crowd into it, but each song had extended solos that sounded the same; after a few verses and a chorus, they were utterly indistinguishable.

After a few songs from their 2007 album Roses and Clover, Gill stood up from his keyboard and put all the muster of his voice (which is not much) into a fun “Eye of the Tiger” breakdown. He then told the audience they were recording a music video. After wild cheers, Gill choreographed the audience, telling them to bounce like “pieces of popcorn.” A videographer walked on stage as Gill jumped around like a child, instructing, “Be a weird bird … yes, you’re a weird bird, and now I want a power fist!” It was the most engaging moment of the show.

But one wondered whether the band was more interested in how the video was going to look than how they sounded. Say what you want about most jam bands, at least they aren’t made for TV.

Aside from the loopy jams, there were two giant problems with the show: the singing and the lyrics. Gill has no range, and is unable to inflect his voice with any emotion. If he sang “I love you” and then “I hate you,” it would probably sound the same. When he sings clichéd crap like “We gotta try just a little bit harder, we gotta shine just a little bit brighter, we gotta walk just a little bit taller” on the snoozer “Try,” it’s the exact bullshit that their godfather Jack Johnson has already mastered. In fact, they sound just like every Jack song, only with a little more goofing around between verses.

In the second set, after more extended jams, they butchered The Band’s classic “Ophelia.” The dreadful lack of range and soul in Gill’s voice failed to convey any of the crooning sorrow of Levon Helm.

They closed things out with their famous (“Thanks Jack!”) ode to teenage lust, “Girl, I Wanna Lay You Down.” With jokey insincerity, Gill sang, “When I touch you, my heart begins to flutter/You’re smooth and creamy like peanut butter.” A girl that reminds me in any way of peanut butter is not a girl I want to lay down. This was followed by the puerile and inaccurate line, “I want to flood you like the Charleston River.”

After dragging out a two-song encore, they mercifully left the stage. It was nice of them to put on a free show. They played hard for a long time and their fans really enjoyed it, so kudos for that. I just couldn’t help wishing it hadn’t been free so I couldn’t have afforded to go.

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