Don’t tell Sara Quin to take her top off.
At 37, the intense, serious half of indie twin sister act Tegan and Sara is too old for that shit, and she told a heckler as much Friday night at the State Theatre – in kinder, gentler, Canadian terms.
“Don’t be a jerk,” Sara said into the darkness of the full house. “I have more power than you in this situation.” After informing the anonymous misogynist that he would be removed if further sexual requests were uttered, Tegan tried to lighten the mood, reminding the audience that Sara is the cat sister – the prickly one – and Tegan, more carefree and fun, is the dog sister.
Sara wasn’t ready to let it go, however. “It makes me want to use my claws,” she said.
No wonder. After 19 years of making music, nine albums, multiple Juno awards, and thousands of dollars raised for the Tegan and Sara Foundation, which focuses on racial, social, and gender justice for LGBTQ women and girls, the accomplished sisters still have to put up with dumbasses.
Most of the crowd was more respectful, though the female fans did get louder with each passing song. When someone shouted “I love you” during a quiet moment, Tegan said she appreciated the “interaction” but added “I could never say ‘I love you’ back because it’s too intense. We don’t know each other.”
Despite the interruptions, the duo plowed ahead. Tegan, pixie-haired and dressed in a black military jacket with big gold buttons, dominated the mic, which she gripped in both hands when she wasn’t strumming acoustic guitar in her feverish style. Sara, with pulled-back hair and a black motorcycle jacket, stuck mostly to keys and backing vocals. Like lithe goth fairies, they switched sides of the stage at the start of almost every song in well-honed choreography.
The first half of the concert consisted of songs from The Con, the now 10-year-old fan favorite that centers around anxiety and death. The album is sometimes somber and plodding, sometimes angsty and frantic with abrupt endings, and always less buoyant than the duo’s later ventures into electro-pop territory.
Tegan shared that she wrote part of The Con in a rented house in Vancouver that she reluctantly shared with a family of six raccoons that lived in the crawl space. “Initially I loved them and thought they were so cute,” she said. “I came to fear them.”
Tegan was the primary storyteller of the show, relating how the sisters found themselves on an airplane one row away from British singer-songwriter Sam Smith. They were too shy to introduce themselves, afraid that he wouldn’t know who they were. Sara was also concerned that the plane would crash, they’d all die, and Smith would get the headline. This provoked audience laughter, as did many of their anecdotes. Despite all the chit-chat, the sisters claimed to be shy – unless they’re in control of the conversation, as they were onstage until the heckler interrupted. After that, the in-between song tangents all but stopped.
At the end of The Con, a scrim bearing illustrations of a giant acorn and three scenes that resembled the style of Nancy Drew books gave way to a black background lit in a way that mimicked a starry night sky.
Tegan announced that they’d play selections from almost all of their other records, beginning with “Now I’m All Messed Up.” Tegan prefaced the breakup tune from the duo’s “pop sell-out” phase with: “This is a sad song that makes people cry.”
“No pressure,” Sara added.
Tegan called the audience “heartless monsters” and they proceeded.
Those who prefer the duo’s slicker pop songs were likely disappointed to hear tunes like “White Knuckles” and “Back in Your Head” reimagined in sparse, acoustic arrangements. The songs sounded flat and heavy compared to the frothy danceability of the recorded versions.
Toward the end of the show, Sara took advantage of her fans’ attention to talk about the sisters’ foundation, sharing that the ticket sales from this show alone raised over $2,000 for LGBTQ women and girls. Sara encouraged the audience to donate via text while Tegan urged fans to stop by the foundation’s booth in the lobby to chat with volunteers and drop a few dollars in the donation jar.
It was just one adult element of a show that felt very grown-up: seated, in a theater, no opener, no encore, no song suggestions honored, a tight hour and a half of acoustic sound with artsy lighting of red, purple, and blue beams that followed the beats. If only select audience members were as mature as the musicians themselves. The only thing Tegan and Sara are taking off is time – they announced a two-year hiatus at the end of this tour.
The crowd: There was a surprising number of men in attendance – around 40 percent of the audience. Not all were dudes on dates with female Tegan and Sara fans, either; the two bearded men seated near me – one tatted, one trucker-hatted – appeared to be on a hetero bro date.
I Was Married
Relief Next to Me
Knife Going In
Are You Ten Years Ago
Back In Your Head
Hop a Plane
Burn Your Life Down
Like O, Like H
Dark Come Soon
Call It Off
Now I’m All Messed Up