The Beacon Theater was a sight to see last Tuesday evening. Fans were lined up around the block of the famed venue to see Canadian indie pop darlings/twins Tegan & Sara. Originally supposed to play the concert in January, it was postponed to February when Sara became ill after an outdoor event in Philadelphia. The audience took to their sets to hear new music from the duet's latest release called Heartthrob and selections from their extensive fifteen-year catalog. Over the next two hours, Tegan and Sara delivered a passionate as well as raw set of material while occasionally throwing in banter and appreciation to an ecstatic crowd.
To understand the rise of these two talented siblings, you would need to go back to 1995. Tegan and Sara Quinn began their musical exploration when they were fifteen years old. Fascinated by their stepfather's guitar and musical tastes, they began as Plunk without a drummer or bassist. Perseverance saw them end up on Neil Young's Vapor Records label and even tour with the fellow Canadian in support of their second full-length, This Business of Art. Tegan & Sara buried their way into the ears of many indie pop/rock aficionados with albums including: So Jealous (with one song, "Walking with a Ghost", being covered by The White Stripes), The Con and Sainthood. They also had music appear on "Grey's Anatomy", "90120" and "Veronica Mars".
2012 saw Tegan & Sara wanting to breakthrough into mainstream success with the recording of their seventh album Heartthrob. The time between their last album Sainthood and this new release saw the Quins test the waters of collaborating with other artists. They recorded new music as a duet (DJ Tiesto-"Feel it in my Bones") and making solo appearances as well. Tegan and Sara decided to record Heartthrob with respected producers like Mike Elizando and Greg Krizen, as well as writing as a duo instead of separately. Heartthrob also saw Tegan and Sara stray from their guitars and play more keyboards. The results proved to be effective as it saw their highest position on the charts and a popular single in the album opener "Closer".
Walking out to "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tommy James and the Shondells, the twins with their backing band (who they referred to as their "Temptations") came out to an earth-shaking applause. The house lights were left on as the group went into the biggest hit off of The Con called "Back in Your Head" and Sara saying "You don't want to stand yet…no pressure". The crowd decided to stand through the concert as the twins played fan favorites and hits including: "Living Room", "Arrow", and "Where Does the Good Go". "Walking With a Ghost" is up there with "Back in Your Head" in terms of popularity and Sara decided to change things up, by replacing the acoustic strumming of the original and playing it electric and slower. Tegan and Sara also did an 80's style remix of "Alligator" from Sainthood. On the more acoustic side of things, they did "Not Tonight" from their third album called If It Was You and even threw in a nod to Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire". While the classic favorites were going to have a positive response, the main reason for the concert was hearing how Heartthrob would sound in their already raw performances.
The new material from Heartthrob, when played live, rivals how it sounds on record. "Love They Say" was one of the songs criticized by a fan when the album became available, according to Tegan. Hearing it live gave new meaning to the lyrics penned by the two and surrounded the audience in a warm sonic wave of synthesizers and acoustic guitars. "Goodbye, Goodbye" is one of the dance-inspired numbers from Heartthrob and can be felt with the bass work of Jasper Leak through the P.A system, while the album closer "Shock to Your System" covered the stage in dark reds, bringing to mind the work of 80's synth bands like New Order and Depeche Mode. Closing out the main set of the evening was "Now I'm All Messed Up" and "Closer", the main single from the new album. "Messed Up" received a standing ovation, which seemed to last a minute as Tegan & Sara soaked it in and "Closer" one-upping it with the audience singing every last word. The encore included "Dark Come Soon" and "Call It Off" from The Con and their collaboration with DJ Tiesto called "Feel It In my Bones", with Tegan telling the crowd to "dance like you're at Burning Man".
The evening would not be complete without the on-stage banter synonymous with the duo. Roughly five songs into their set, Sara apologized to the crowd about the illness that prevented the two from playing the theater last month. "I know you forgive me. I can see it in your faces…" Tegan then prompted her sister to just say where she lives when Sara mentioned how she lives by the Beacon and saw the postponed signs, bringing the audience to laughter. The banter also involved the writing of "Love They Say", introducing their "Temptations" (including long-time guitar player Ted Gowans, Death Cab for Cutie drummer Jason McGerr and keyboardist John Spence) and Tegan commenting that something that looked like tar was on her sister's neck. The banter was kept to a minimum to make room for the new songs, but still made the show memorable.
Tegan and Sara have come a long way from their Canadian garage days to becoming a sensation in the world of indie rock and looking for mainstream appeal. As the evening came to an end, Tegan mentioned how they've played the Beacon before with Ryan Adams and remembered the two wanting to play it again even if it took ten years. It's because of this mentality that the Quin twins have remained grounded and kept a very loyal fan base. The recent attention from Heartthrob hasn't made the sisters into "rock-stars" and still care about their fans. Along with the new music; the new stage and their perseverance shows the Tegan & Sara will still be around for a long time."Sandman" Sean Concannon