Tegan & Sara were refreshing, inspiring, and continue to break barriers

By Shirley Griffith 

June 9, 2017

Fresh off their 2016 bubbly, strawberry popsicle party of a record, Love You to Death, Tegan & Sara graced the Fillmore stage on Thursday to the absolute thrill of both longtime and newcomer fans. The iconic Canadian identical twin sisters have made a career by being themselves and doing what they think is right, both musically and morally. Now, at only 36 years old, they have an impressive 22 year music career under their belts and an ever-growing, diverse audience.

Laetitia Tamko aka Vagabon. Photo by Jared Allen

But first, this review would not be complete without mention of the powerful opening set by New York’s Vagabon. Laetitia Tamko is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist whose debut 2016 release Infinite Worlds has earned her the title of “indie rock game-changer.” Tamko, with the help of her two member touring band, delivered a sermon of a performance, evoking an emotional and suspended dream over the chatty audience. Speaking of the concert blabbermouths, let’s take a quick sidebar: [Dear people who go to concerts seemingly just to talk over the paid performer: you are being so very rude, please keep your idle conversations out of others’ music experiences. People paid for a show, not to hear about how Chad’s friend just moved back from Boone] Tamko’s voice was impressively steady, calm, and even a little coy when she briefly spoke in between songs to express her gratitude. This level tone was shattered each time a song was performed as Tamko opened her mouth to release the fiery, passionate soul-call (like roll-call but for your heart) of her message. The yearning, tumultuous “Fear & Force” was sublime while closer “Embers” had so much vocal emotion attached to it that I nearly cried feeling Tamko scream out over gnarly bass and bold, waltzing drums, It’s just that I was so damn mad.” I feel that, Laetitia.

Tegan and Sara Quinn. Photo by Jared Allen

While the crowd bought their obscenely priced domestics and shuffled to the find a close spot, roadies blew up a massive stage-wide inflatable, late-80s inspired ‘T & S’ to stand as a fun addition to the LY2D party vibes. Already assembled was a full backdrop with printed patterns and bright neon colors, like a screenshot from a Saved By The Bell lookbook. The lights darkened and Tegan & Sara’s cover of classic Pointers Sisters pump-it-up anthem, “I’m So Excited” started blaring from all speakers and brightly choreographed lighting danced feverishly across the backdrop making 3D effects among the now dancing patterns. The Quinn twins were truly summoning the summer night fun as they bounced onto stage to, and I’m not exaggerating, rapturous applause. The audience was PUMPED and Tegan directed, “sing along if ya want to” as the opening beats of 2007 The Con hit “Back In Your Head” queued up. The first song being a sing-along brought an immediate sense of togetherness throughout the venue, and an easy welcome from the indie duo.

During the first three songs I immediately noticed how the twins were so comfortable on stage, that they had developed the confident swagger and boldness normally only showcased by arena rock stars and MC’s. In case you missed that, I want to elaborate here for a minute. I meant the degree of gait that they used is normally reserved for men in the music industry. It’s hard to even imagine an arena rock star or MC in mainstream music that has the audacity to be a woman, while simultaneously not parading their own sex appeal. It was refreshing, inspiring, and straight up warm and fuzzy to witness two self-made, queer women breaking those gendered, not musically-specific barriers, and this is why they’re so beloved by their fans. It is important for young girls to have role models who are unencumbered by nonsensical music industry accepted norms. Their struts only escalated throughout the show turning into full on dance moves by the time they hit those sugary sweet tunes from LY2D.  

Sara Quinn photo by Jared Allen

The duo offset their performance by engaging with the crowd in funny back-and-forths like which twin is more popular (Tegan is, but it doesn’t matter because none of us could tell them apart anyways), and even singled out audience members that were depressed over recent break ups so the crowd could cheer them on and make that one person feel supported for, at least, that one night. Tegan exclaimed, “Well, we’re your community tonight and this song is for you and anyone else going through a hard time” before serenading the crowd with 2013’s “I Was A Fool.” This may be a magic twin thing, or a just seasoned performer thing, but the duo’s harmonies and movements, especially during “Alligator” were phenomenally in sync. Each movement was an intrinsic give and take creating balance in both sound and energy, building a striking visual, inflatable props and neon backdrops be damned. After a short chat about the upcoming 10 year anniversary of The Con and what it meant to them personally then vs. now, they brought the nostalgia by playing a few of the records hits, including “Nineteen” and “Call It Off” (where a good number of the crowd joined in to sing wistfully, “maybe I would’ve been something you’d be good at”). The twins asked the crowd if they’d like to hear some stuff off LY2D and Tegan shared that “Hang On To The Night” was her favorite song, and her favorite thing to sing with her sister, as she gave a wholesome hug to Sara to the delight of everyone with a working heart. “Hang On To The Night” is an incredibly inspiring, but still humble and understanding song about making it through the hard times, most notably a message of support to all LGBTQ youths trying to navigate their life.  

Tegan Quinn photo by Jared Allen

Also off LY2D came “BWU,” “U-turn,” and “Boyfriend” even though 30 seconds into “U-turn” Sara had to stop the show to tell two idiots to stop fighting (who fights at a Tegan & Sara show?). The crowd commended her for caring enough to put a stop to the danger the two people were creating, and when one of the brawlers gave her sass, she scolded back, “Dude, I don’t care, there’s plenty of room to dance, you can either quit being a dick and watch the rest of the show or you can leave.” The remaining, non-ridiculous entirety of the crowd responded with thundering cheers and the duo restarted the song. Arguably, their most famous song, “Closer” ended out the set with excited and full-hearted dancing before the icons disappeared into the darkened night. Just kidding, they weren’t fooling anyone; the encore flexed a softer side of their discography which featured “100x” and “Walking With A Ghost” before bounding into “Stop Desire.”

Check out the remaining 2017 Tegan & Sara tour dates.

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