Gig/Concert: Tegan & Sara with An Horse in Montreal
Venue: Place des Arts, Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, Montréal, QC
Date: 18 January 2010
Headliners: Tegan and Sara
In one word: Heartbreak
Monday night it was my fellow Calgary ex-pats Tegan and Sara, playing at Place des Arts (“Akin to playing the Starship Enterprise,” they later post on their website) touring in support of their latest album, Sainthood. A show that started with heartbreak (… for me: ever seen a camera lens bounce? No? That’s because they don’t) later ended with songs about heartbreak, interspersed with plenty of sisterly rivalry in between.
I missed out on opening act An Horse, but thankfully Brian caught them in Toronto…
Growing up in Calgary, I vaguely remember seeing their names up on the whiteboard announcing upcoming shows at a local coffee shop where I spent the majority of my adolescence in a smoky, caffeine-infused haze. I never did see them back then, despite everyone around me picking up on their music early on. Only now, with one-half of the duo (the Sara half) living in Montréal, do I finally check them out.
The twins are many things during the show – adorable and talkative, talented and goofy – and even without their respective collections of tattoos it’s fairly easy to tell them apart – Tegan’s the one always taking the piss out of her sister, while Sara’s the “shy… weak” one, in her own words (awww). Tegan amiably tries to pimp her sister out the crowd (“… She’s 5’2”, has asthma…”) after Sara mentions she never gets recognized in Montréal, despite living here almost 8 years. Tegan, however, tells the crowd that on visits to her sister, she’s always bumping into people who recognized her; they’re twins, so she has only one explanation: “I think you get recognised, you’re just not that friendly … She’s so shy.” Double awww. I’d be mortified, but Sara is clearly used to it; and at least more than a few in the crowd seem more than willing to take her up on the offer.
Their music taps the rich vein of indie pop/rock and the lyrics are solidly crafted reflections on love and heartbreak; both girls take turns writing their own songs, overlapping their personalities in the music. I really like both their singing styles – it’s only in this aspect that I have a hard time telling them apart on recordings – somewhere on the scale between melodic warble and twang, rising a bit more forcefully on louder songs like “Hell”.
The set is mostly taken from Sainthood, bookended by tangential sisterly banter; good stories are half the show, with Sara sometimes resembling an adorable five-foot female Milton affecting a sheepish mumble when threatened with being married off to *someone* in the Montréal crowd. From what songs I managed to check out before the show, I can pick out “Hell”, and “Alligator”, and “Walking with a Ghost,” (yes, the one covered by The White Stripes, and no, I don’t care who you think did a better job, YouTube commenters).
The encore is mostly stripped down acoustic versions, like “Back in Your Head”, “Feel It in My Bones” and “My Number”, pared back to the emotional core. My Number remains the favourite of the evening – a sweetly keening, melancholic song, sad enough to stick in the back of my throat by the end of the song. It gives an earnest ending to the evening, which then takes off at the end with the slightly-more-buoyant “Living Room”, off of the album If It Was You. If it’s one thing I can take away from the show, I took my sweet time getting to know their music, and at least the wait paid off.
(Props for supporting a good cause: I’ll point out that they’re donating all the money made from the sale of their tour posters to Haiti relief efforts; Médecins Sans Frontières and Partners in Health are the beneficiaries of the sales so yay! for T&S for doing this.)
© Liz Keith