By Michael Lello
Photos by Alex Seeley
BETHLEHEM , Pa. – Roughly halfway through their sharp, sparkling and entertaining concert on Monday, Tegan and Sara Quin, the chatty – and usually polite – Canadian twin-sister duo, shared with the audience an experience the two had earlier in the day hosting a Reddit chat.
“Some of you are pretty much fucking assholes,” said Tegan, referring to select members of the T&S fanbase that asked inappropriate questions during the online session.
Of course, she prefaced her barb by mentioning that most of the band’s fans are wonderful. Again: Polite. Canadian.
But it was a welcomed moment from the almost too-pleasant-to-be-true pair. An emblematic one regarding Tegan and Sara’s music, too — the performance reinforced the fact that this is indeed a pop group, but one with edges honed to a point as sharp as Tegan’s quip.
About 45 minutes earlier, T&S (backed by a taut 4-piece group) hit the SteelStacks stage, kicking off the “Let’s Make Things Physical” tour date with “Goodbye,” taken from their high-charting newest album “Heartthrob.” The pulsing, upbeat number, with Sara on lead vocals and guitar and Tegan on keyboards, was a perfect opener. Other early-set highlights included “Back In Your Head” and the dark, dangerous “The Con,” both from the 2007 album of the latter name, as well as “Walking With A Ghost.”
“Walking,” notably, is from 2004’s “So Jealous” album, a record that helped T&S transition from a folkier sound to a more electronic-driven pop. In fact, when T&S played songs from the earlier, Lilith Fair-inspired portion of its career, only the melodies remained intact. “Living Room,” for example, was the recipient of a “Heartthrob”-esque update that shined up the originally strummy jangle pop into something way more Arcade Fire than Indigo Girls.
“Sainthood,” this reviewer’s favorite T&S album, was well-represented, too – only three songs, but some of the record’s best, the sly “On Directing,” “Sentimental Tune” and the sing-songy “Alligator.”
The sisters – who throughout the show played electric and acoustic guitar and keyboards, as well as alternating lead and backing vocals – ended the set proper with “Closer,” the irrepressible dancefloor hit from “Heartthrob,” before beginning their encore with “Call It Off,” allowing the rapturous audience to sing the first verse. “Maybe you’d be something I’d be good at,” crowd and performers sang in unison.
Tegan and Sara left the audience on a poignant note, taking on the oft-covered Pete Townsend staple “Let My Love Open The Door.” Having only just begun performing the song on stage last month, the group’s version was a stunner; the trademark synthesizer line was used more as a melancholic foil than a propellant, the arrangement was sparser and the tempo was slowed, as the Quins sang the lyrics that fit T&S just as well as they fit the Who star.
Hear our recent interview with Tegan Quin here.