As I stumbled through the heavily-packed sold-out show at the 9:30 Club, I tried to find a spot after. Openers Lucius, a great band in their own right, had posted themselves at the merchandise stand, signing autographs and taking pictures. Soon, the lights began to dim. I tried to find a vantage point to see headliners Tegan and Sara finally take the stage, ultimately ending up at the bar, as it was the only space that wasn’t completely packed. The crowd seemed unusually enthusiastic. I found myself bunched up with the rest of the normal crowd (hipsters and pseudo-hipsters and such), sandwiched between a couple and a woman drinking at the bar. Tegan and Sara began to take the stage as the crowd roared with excitement and jubilation. After some witty and charming banter, from Tegan (or Sara), the famous lesbian twins began to tear into their set with the opening riff from “Back In Your Head”. Amidst a rather ornate and lovely backdrop, that honestly looked something like a cashmere pillow, the crowd swooned and cheered with excitement. It became clear Tegan and Sara have built a very strong following in their many years of playing. The audience was eager and hungry; I suspected a great deal of them had been longtime fans.
The excitement was palpable in the air. It was easy to see why they were finally signed to the majors. They played with the ease and skill of music industry veterans, all parts harmonious, everything in balance. The band played a great show, mixing older rock-oriented tunes with their new pop-sheened glossy songs. It was easy to understand their appeal with catchy hooks and heart-rending lyrics, all of which came through beautifully live. Standing there, seeing and hearing them in person, in real time, they didn’t simply seem to be musicians but seemed to talk with the intimacy of friends. They had a very easy rapport with the audience, giving anecdotes in between songs. This certainly distinguishes them over many other acts, as they were very engaging, and the audience responded in kind, making them worthy of adulation. Even from the back of the venue, it was obvious how captivating they could be. It was a very lively show with many mouthing or singing all the lyrics to their songs, perfectly intimate for Tegan and Sara.
The set list ran the gamut from old favorites from the Con and Sainthood, to newer tracks from their last album Heartthrob. Seeing these songs performed back to back made it easier to contextualize the sugary sweet electronic sounds of Heartthrob, to their older, and slightly sadder, music. It’s all part of an elaborate tapestry, and one realizes that there has always been fun to the heartbreak, with a rather punk attack to balance the melancholy. Elements of electronics have been a part of their songwriting for a long time, and this translated well live, especially when compared with their newer tracks. The songs seemed to become something joyous rather than desolate or lonely. Witnessing these songs live, the music seemed to be more energetic and alive than their albums. From a technical perspective the sound was fantastic, the playing was near-perfect. The lyrics of love and loss and things in between became more puncturing and visceral. Standouts included, “Shock To Your System”, “Nineteen”, their song with Tiesto, “Feel It In my Bones”, and of course, the single “Closer”.
Ultimately, even though it’s the songs that matter, their disarming sense of ease, sensitivity, and cool humility that seemed to elevate them to the indie starlets they are, and possibly future mainstream successes. As they closed out their set, they graciously thanked the audience for their support and how the fans really do make it possible for them to continue, and also thanked their backing band. They finished the show powerfully, their excitement still reverberating throughout, and it was over, the pangs of reality returning almost immediately. I walked out into the rain; a little sad it had ended. In this, their Let’s Make Things Physical Tour was a celebration of love, the good and bad, beautiful throughout.
Future Tour Dates:
Jun 16, 2014 / Minneapolis, MN / First Avenue
Jun 17, 2014 / Chicago, IL / The Vic Theatre
Jun 18, 2014 / Chicago, IL / The Vic Theatre
Jun 22, 2014 / New Haven, CT / Toad’s Place
Jun 24, 2014 / New York, NY / Hammerstein Ballroom
Jun 28, 2014 / Grand Rapids, MI / Meijer Gardens Amphitheater