During their lengthy career, spanning over more than 15 years, Tegan and Sara Quin have experienced major musical shifts. When the twin sisters formed their duo, back in 1995 in Calgary, it was an acoustic act. Somewhere around the 5th album, when they started getting more successful, they were an indie-rock band, and by the time they released their 7th studio album, Heartthrob, they were opening for the likes of Katy Perry and Taylor Swift – Tegan and Sara were now a full-blown mainstream pop phenomenon. Luckily, the fans stuck through journey and embraced the sisters’ new sound – but how could a Tegan and Sara concert please fans both old and new, without presenting with a case of musical schizophrenia? That’s what people who came to Camden’s KOKO on 22nd of June were about the find out.
Tegan and Sara take the stage quietly, with no big introduction, no bells or whistles, other than the ones coming from the excited audience. Right away they jump into and acoustic mini-set, starting with the 2007 Call It Off. It’s an odd choice, but it works. The room becomes silent and everyone sings along. They continue with another acoustic rendition of the 2013 Now I’m All Messed Up. Their voices mesh beautifully, and the audience is loving every second. With Back in Your Head a background band finally joins the sisters and so do some background colourful lights; the atmosphere becomes much more light and dancey. The rest of the show is high-energy, with songs mostly from the two latest albums. The poppy sounds are laced with a playful 80s flavour, that is especially apparent with the song U-Turn. You can’t help but dance and sing along. Still, the acoustic beginning sets the tone for the rest of the show – which somehow manages to remain intimate, in spite of it being uptempo.
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One of the things contributing to the intimacy is the singers’ lovable banter between the songs – about how they get asked if the feel each other’s pain (as identical twins), what they would do with a million dollars, or their fake British accents. They know that their followers are there not just to hear the songs, but also to hear them. Because being a Tegan and Sara fan, most often than none, also has some personal or political meaning. Both women have been openly gay since their careers started, and are advocates for LGBT rights. And even if they don’t speak of politics on stage – just the fact that they are on stage, in a big mainstream venue, is statement enough, and an important one at that. But the night of the 22nd, is right after that horrible mass murder in Orlando – and the sisters do make a long, powerful approach about how important it is to be who you are, and not be afraid – right before they jump into the encore.
The gig ends just like it began – with another acoustic set. Whether it was intended or not, this creates a statement – Tegan and Sara may sound like mainstream pop now (which is not a bad thing, by any means), but their hearts and attitudes are still and always remain indie. This means that the art, the fans and the message – those are the things that matter the most.
This Tegan and Sara article was written by Tal Imagor, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo credit : @laurenperchard