Tegan and Sara at First Avenue, 3/6/13
|Photo by Erik Hess|
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Building trust with an audience is sacrosanct for certain musicians, and Tegan and Sara are now in the bumpiest stage of that relationship with their fans. With Heartthrob, their first new studio album in four years, the earnest acoustic strummers hit pop paydirt and several new synth-based tracks -- including "Closer," already their biggest hit -- could be played harmoniously alongside material from their Canadian countrywoman Carly Rae Jepsen. Somehow, this sonic makeover hasn't eliminated the twin sisters' trademark quirky harmonies, or the hyper-personal songwriting that helped make their base feel so close to them in the first place. So what's the problem?
Tegan and Sara Quin may live in different cities and be the faces of a business -- a thriving one at that -- but sisterhood and, by extension, family will always be one of their key selling points. Seeing an artist grow out of the phase that endeared us to them can be a straining experience, and segments of the audience at First Avenue were having trouble coming to grips with the bass drops and keyboard loops now associated with Tegan and Sara. There were others who just danced their faces off.
Slideshow: Tegan and Sara at First Avenue, 3/6/13
Tegan & Sara's Sara Quin: We must seem like the biggest losers in love
Anyone listening closely over the past decade might've guessed this stage in the Tegan and Sara's artistic evolution was coming. Launching the night was "Back in Your Head," from 2007's infectious The Con, which featured production guidance from Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla in the studio. With their asymmetrical parted hair swooping in opposite directions, the sisters strapped on acoustic guitars, and a four-guy backing band provided a wallop right behind them. And like the best of T&S, the song straddles a punk rawness, confessions ("I get a little scared"), buoyant hooks, and the sisters' interplay standing eight feet apart from each other.
This would prove to be one of the few moments not attached to a rumble, and Tegan and Sara were smart to warm the crowd up with Toronto synth-pop act Diana as an opener. Sinewy frontwoman Carmen Elle and her group bared pathos through her sensitive lyrics, but it also came across via a saxophone freakout, and some low end that might've loosened any dental work in the front row's mouths.
After "Walking With a Ghost" bathed the slim Quins in red light, they slid into one of Heartthrob's least overtly dance-oriented tracks, "I Was a Fool." And though this track isn't a contender for their greatest hits album, their quick back-and-forth vocal interplay at the song's midpoint is so clever and fun to watch that it was a shame to see it go.
|Photos by Erik Hess|
For the most part, the setlist has stuck to a basic framework for the duration of the tour, and the choice of the hard-edged "Arrow" was a wise choice to follow to keep a constant pulse and movement to a couple performers who mostly stood pretty still. "This is a really attractive audience," Sara said after the song, and was chided by her sister for flirting. "Everybody is beautiful to someone," Sara continued. "But some nights I look out into the crowd and say 'not for me.'" And this transitioned into one of the best-loved T&S songs, "The Con." Though it started a tad pitchy, a large percentage of the crowd sang along and it eventually settled into into its spiky pop-punk groove.