Words: Miljan Milekić
Well, the third time’s a charm, I guess. The first time I was about to see Tegan and Sara live was a decade ago, on their show in Zagreb, Croatia, back in 2013, but for reasons I don’t even remember anymore, I wasn’t able to. The second try came in 2017, in what was supposed to be a perfect long weekend in the Austrian capital of Vienna, with Tegan and Sara, Sum 41, and A Day To Remember concerts three days in a row. Work emergencies had different plans, and the first night was a no-go. Now, six years and three flights later, I am finding myself living in Saskatchewan’s most populated city, finally catching them.
The night was kicked off by Toronto-based Debby Friday, who delivered a solid set. With the dark and heavy electronic-dominated sound, it was a stark contrast to what the headliners brought, but it definitely added to a sonically diverse evening. Atmospheric and energetic, she was able to reach quite a few people, but being words apart from the main act, in spite of all the positive reactions, it was clear who the majority of the people in the TCU Place amphitheatre showed up to see.
From the moment they stepped on the stage, the Quin sisters made it their own. With nine (or ten) albums under their belt, Tegan and Sara have lots to choose from, and they are not afraid to do so, mashing old with the new, and doing it seemingly effortlessly. A big portion of the songs, however, came in straight from their most recent one, last year’s album ‘Crybaby,’ and rightfully so. Songs like ‘I Can’t Grow Up,’ ‘Fucking Up What Matters,’ ‘Smoking Weed Alone,’ or ‘Sometimes I See Starts’ already seem like a staple in their setlist, and it doesn’t look like they will be going anywhere anytime soon.
My personal dose of nostalgia mostly came along with the tracks from ‘The Con,’ which was the first record I heard from them, and especially ‘Back in Your Head,’ ‘Nineteen’ and the title track. As a matter of fact, my first contact with Tegan and Sara’s music not only came in with ‘Back in Your Head,‘ but with Tiësto’s remix of the track, so it’s no wonder that ‘Feel It in My Bones’ was another treat for me in the set, especially in tuned down version, without the wall of the electronic noise it usually has. Snuck between ‘Under My Control’ and ‘Boyfriend’ it got a completely new life, without losing any of its strengths. The biggest reaction, as expected, came in during ‘Closer,’ the duo’s biggest song to date, which slowly brought the show to an end.
In their music, Calgary-raised, Vancouver-based Tegan and Sara combine so many different styles and influences, giving their music a distinct flavour, and making it unique. Rooted in indie pop and rock, their music involves elements of synth pop, alternative rock, electronics, or even emo, making their shows a fun, multi-genre experience for everyone involved. Although in live renditions their songs lose a bit of their eclectic, all-over-the-place vibe which works so well on the records, in favor of a bit of sonic balance, it doesn’t hurt them. On the contrary, it just wraps the all together into a cohesive live experience. Still crazy, still playful, but with a bit more punch.
But the music is not the only thing Tegan and Sara had to offer, as they did their best to create a community rather than a show. From the very beginning, the typical border between the band on, and the crowd in front of the stage was brought down. They let us know when they will play a high-energy, or a slow song, so we can choose between standing and sitting down, shared insights of some of the songs, or stories we didn’t know we needed – about beekeeping in the morning show on TV in the UK, or indie underground wrestling in Vancouver. Without even trying, just by being themselves, they made everyone feel welcome, and the two hours of music a night they will remember for a while.