Aly & AJ gave audiences a rush


Photo Courtesy of Leianna Tanedo.

I frantically ran into Delmar Hall, still in my scrubs from clinical, scrambling to find a good place to stand. Where do you even stand for an artist you’ve loved for fourteen years? “Into the Rush” was one of the first CDs I ever bought, and being able to see them live has brought everything full circle. I found a nice table close to the dance floor and felt the bubbling excitement to see Aly & AJ.

Armors, a three-piece alternative rock band, kicked off the show. The lead singer was charming and excited to be playing the first leg of the tour with Aly & AJ. His voice was pretty versatile, ranging from indie pop sounds to emo sounds of the 2000s. “DOA” and “I Don’t Wanna Know” were some of their songs that really stood out to me, accompanied by bounding energy and flashing lights.

The hype to see Aly & AJ comes with their return from a ten-year hiatus. After their premiere on the Disney Channel, they were met with commercial success of their first two albums, “Into the Rush” and “Insomniatic.” Following their albums, they felt a pressure to conform to mainstream music that didn’t fit them at all. They took a break to pursue their acting careers and other creative projects. Last year, the duo released the album “Ten Years” under an independent label, and it was a celebration of their return to music with a fresh, more alternative sound based in synths and dreamy vocals. St. Louis was the second location of their Sanctuary tour, commemorating the release of their new EP, “Sanctuary.”

I excitedly ran toward the stage in anticipation of their set. A low bass line drifted in, accompanied by white mood lighting. Aly & AJ walked on stage in matching trench coats and shorts, with Aly in all-black and AJ in all-white in reference to the contrasting aesthetic that marks their new music videos. AJ’s voice cut through the instrumental as they opened with “Church,” the first of two singles released this year. They clearly maintained their knack for harmonies and stayed true to the new sound they created.

“We’re gonna play a mix of old and new for you today,” Aly said after their first song. They then played “Closure,” from their 2007 album “Insomniatic.” The audience screamed lyrics that tied together the past twelve years. Aly & AJ then talked about their partnership with The Trevor Project, a 24-hour suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth and played “Good Love,” accompanied with glowing rainbow lights. Riding off of that energy, they played “Don’t Go Changing,” which built quietly until everyone burst into dancing during the chorus.

The duo played a special performance for St. Louis since they sang unreleased songs that would be on their new album. “Not Ready to Wake Up” was more reminiscent of their early pop songs, energizing the crowd. During “Promises,” the duo showed off breathy stylization, contrasting the smooth, catchy hook with punched staccato phrases. Shortly afterwards, the pulsing guitar riff of “Chemicals React” was met with excited screams from the audience. Flashbacks of old music videos and boomboxes filled my head. Their performance of “Take Me” could only be described as bubbly, where everyone in the audience was beaming and dancing around during the instrumental breaks. Toward the end of the show, they burst into two favorites: “Like Whoa” and “Rush.” It was a spiritual experience to sing with people who had shared the same excitement for Aly & AJ growing up. I felt like I knew everyone in the room.

For their encore, they covered “Slow Burn” by Kacey Musgraves, peeling away from an acoustic set to an a cappella cover of the song that we never knew we needed. With the same soft vibe, they sang one of their first hits, “No One.” Afterwards, they played “Sanctuary,” the title song for their EP, which was really catchy and fun to sing along. And of course, they closed with the heartbreak anthem, “Potential Breakup Song.”

Aly & AJ have evolved their sound from Disney’s pop-rock princesses to alt-pop queens, staying true to their love for harmonies and truthful lyrics. Their concert brought me a mix of nostalgia for my childhood and admiration for growth. Aly & AJ reminded me how far we have all come since our 2005 days, and took us along for the ride over a decade later. They have inspired me to reflect on my own growth in the past ten years compared to who I was when I opened that first CD case. And both pieces of myself continue to love the “Sanctuary” their music has built for me.