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Monday, March 29, 2010

Tegan and Sara @ The Riverside Theater

March 25, 2010

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After a dozen years touring together, twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin’s stage banter has taken on the air of a Smothers Brothers routine, with each sister dryly playing the straight man during the other’s turn to talk. At their performance Thursday night at the Riverside Theater, there were even echoes of the Smothers’ “mom always liked you best” bit when Sara taunted her sister, suggesting that during their days in utero Tegan had been relegated to the cold, un-nurturing portion of the womb.

Their banter can be quite banal—other topics Thursday included Tegan’s laundry and Sara’s exercise regimen—but it can also be more candid, as when Tegan described growing so dependent on an ex-girlfriend that she couldn’t go to the bathroom at night without her. On all matters, no matter how trivial or how personal, the sisters are an open book. That indiscriminate candor is the secret behind the group’s fiercely loyal fan base, and also their incisive songwriting—particularly on 2007’s The Con, a blunt breakup record that ultimately casts Tegan and Sara not as victims but aggressors. On that album, each sister drives their partners away; Tegan through neediness and co-dependency; Sara, conversely, through emotional detachment and her wandering eye.

The group’s latest album, Sainthood, doesn’t quite offer the same decadent hooks and impassioned highs as The Con, so it was perhaps unwise that the first half of Thursday’s performance leaned so heavily on the new record. These new songs sometimes failed to connect with the crowd, though it wasn’t for lack of effort on the sister’s part. Backed by an unlit, mostly unacknowledged three-piece band, Tegan and Sara sang themselves breathless as they rotated between guitars and synthesizers.

The audience was far more enthused about material from The Con and So Jealous, the 2004 breakthrough album that reinvented the one-time folk duo as unlikely power-pop torch carriers. During the encore, the Quins paid homage to those acoustic roots when they left the band behind for stripped down renditions of two decidedly electric songs, “Back In Your Head” and “Feel It In My Bones.” Though the Quins have evolved into a deft rock group, this was the incarnation of Tegan and Sara the crowd came to see: unguarded and exposed.


Photo by CJ Foeckler