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Review: Tegan and Sara at Stubb’s

Eric Webb

Editor’s note: This article was originally published September 14, 2013

When Candian indie-rock darlings Tegan and Sara took the stage at last year’s sweltering ACL Fest, they had just released “Closer,” a synth-soaked anthem from then-upcoming album Heartthrob that was conspicuously different from the pair’s usual guitar jams. Almost a year later, Tegan and Sara have since proven their electropop bonafides with an excellent album full of earworms. The sisters and their band plugged in for a show at Stubb’s on Friday, and this time the dance-party sound of “Closer” was the rule, not the exception.

Ever the experts in chatting up the crowd — sold out, in this case — Tegan Quinn assured the audience that she loved them before the band launched into a rollicking trio of Heartthrob cuts, beginning with “I’m Not Your Hero.” The electricity continued to surge through “Drove Me Wild” and “Goodbye, Goodbye,” with the sisters seamlessly trading off lead vocals throughout. Nothing guarantees musical chemistry like being twins, it seems.

After a little hiccup with a leftover vocal loop from “Goodbye, Goodbye” (Sara: “Are you ready for some old stuff? I mean, the song we just played?”), the band delved into their catalog with “Back In Your Head.” A sea of fans happy to hear the hit turned Stubb’s into the best kind of karaoke bar.

The Heartthrob synths crept into a particularly energetic rendition of “The Con,” spurring the sisters to remark that it’s “nice to be around people who know your songs.” That certainly proved true as the familiar guitar strains of “Walking With a Ghost” started up, keeping the singalong vibe going strong.

Though the show for the most part kept a breezy, jubilant atmosphere, a little grit peeked through a couple of times. “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend” coaxed a raw performance from Tegan, noticeably more passionate than either sister’s usual wry-and-dry delivery. The pair had a little fun with it, alternating a vocal track and Tegan’s live yelping on the song’s rapid-fire “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” refrain. The flourish was just subtle enough to not be gimmicky. The grit stuck around for a bit, and Tegan’s Black Flag shirt seemed appropriate on an angry, shouting “Now I’m All Messed Up.”

After sarcastically hyping up a shaker solo promised to thrill and dazzle, “Alligator” brought a disco-funk spirit to the stage that could not have possibly foreshadowed the massive arena-style rock singalong that followed with “Nineteen.” The pair warned that they hadn’t played the song in awhile, but there was nary a cobweb in sight.

The show sailed without flagging, as Tegan and Sara fostered a friendly, heartfelt vibe through a mix of crowd-pleasers and newer songs alike. To wrap the set up, the band went all in on the synthy-dancey-sweaty party feel with the one-two punch of “Feel It In Your Bones” (obviously a Tiësto track) and a triumphant “Closer.” It was one of “those” concert moments: As soon as the song’s opening note chimed, audience members rushed to the front (to get a little closer, natch). There were multi-colored strobe lights. There was a kinetic flurry of pop art interspersed with flying lyrics on the screen. There was jumping. Oh, there was jumping.

The only problem: The band set off all the fireworks before the encore. Coming back with a melancholy, acoustic “Call It Off” and a twangy “Living Room” was pleasant. But after such an exhilarating high, “anticlimactic” came to mind. Luckily, there was no way Tegan and Sara could have burned through the goodwill of a delighted crowd that got exactly what they came for: dancing, singalongs, charming stage banter, and then dancing all over again.