Tegan and Sara | 05.04.08

Tegan and Sara photo by Todd Owyoung. www.ishootshows.com 

Photo: Todd Owyoung www.ishootshows.com

The setlist mixed more-or-less equal portions of new songs played as-is and old songs re-imagined.


w/ An Horse

The Pageant, St. Louis


It had been just over five years since Tegan and Sara Quin graced a stage in St. Louis, but it may as well be a lifetime considering how much has changed for the twin sisters in the interim. When the pair last appeared in town—to a small but enthusiastic crowd at a March ’03 show that would prove to be one of the last at the Galaxy—they were little-known artists just starting to break into college radio on the strength of a strong sophomore effort (2002’s If It Was You) and opening stints for Neil Young, Rufus Wainwright, and, funnily enough, both Ryan and Bryan Adams. Their 2004 follow-up So Jealous brought the Canadian duo’s power pop prowess to the attention of, well, damn near everybody, and having Jack and Meg White take a stab at their song "Walking With a Ghost" on a 2005 White Stripes EP certainly didn’t hurt their profile. And here they are, five years later, having graduated from a sparsely attended show at a moderately sized venue to selling out the cavernous hall that is the Pageant. Not too shabby.

View Shots from the show in My Photo Life {gallery}tegansara:::1{/gallery}

Australian band An Horse got the crowd moving with an energetic set of sweet, stripped-down pop. Singer Kate Cooper has a smooth, instantly likeable voice, supported perfectly by the duo’s music, sounding surprisingly full given that guitar and drums were the only instruments in play. The crowd response was quite positive, but nothing compared to the roars that greeted Tegan and Sara as they took the stage (to the strains of the Supremes’ "You Can’t Hurry Love," no less).

Tegan Quin photo by Todd Owyoung. Click for a larger image.The opening one-two punch showed the band’s game plan for the evening. The first song "I Know I Know I Know" was a twist on the version that appeared on So Jealous, opening with an extended section of Tegan playing and singing solo before the rest of the five-piece band (the Quin sisters plus bass, drums, and keyboards) kicked in. The latter portion of the song also featured an extended bridge, which Sara punctuated with a guitar solo played as single sustained notes that proved an effective addition. The second song, the title track from their latest (last year’s The Con), by contrast, was much closer to the album version, only with clanging electric guitar (front and center in the mix for much of the night) giving the live version a beefier tone.

From there, the setlist mixed more-or-less equal portions of new songs played as-is and old songs re-imagined. On the new material, Sara got to explore her melancholy side, first on the power ballad-esque "Burn Your Life Down" then on a dark, brooding run through "Like O, Like h" menacing enough to overcome the song’s borderline nonsensical lyrics. Tegan, for her part, brought the tempo back up in the set’s latter half when a tribal drumbeat boosted the epic "Nineteen" and her garage-rockin’ guitar work kicked "Hop a Plane" into high gear. The Con‘s bouncy, piano-driven single "Back In Your Head" proved the night’s biggest crowd pleaser, stirring up a singalong to close out the main set.

The changes to the older material were almost always for the better. The monstrous rhythm section took over the normally guitar-driven "Walking With a Ghost," while the normally sweet "Take My Anywhere" added crunching guitars and drums that shook the walls. Not everything was amped up: "Not Tonight" was transformed into a lilting lullaby built on acoustic guitar and a softly played xylophone, while encore-opener "So Jealous" gave ample room for the twins’ angelic high/low vocal harmonies.

Sara Quin photo by Todd Owyoung. Click for a larger image.Early Tegan and Sara performances were as notable for their talking portions as they were for their music, the story time between songs sometimes stretching longer than the songs themselves. If the 2006 performance DVD It’s Not Fun, Don’t Do It is any indication, the interim saw these asides completely excised from the set, robbing the Quin sisters of their innate charm. This night’s performance fortunately found a happy medium, with Sara being especially chatty on subjects ranging from how scary they used to think St. Louis was to ripping on the British music rag NME. But the sweetest moment of the night came in a story about the boy who had a crush on her in the third grade, and showed his affection in the most romantic way a third grade boy can muster: he gave her a shoebox full of hockey cards.

The missteps of the night were few. A squall of accidental guitar feedback killed Sara’s first attempt to get through "Relief Next to Me," and a second attempt stalled out after a verse or so. The third time was the charm, however, with Tegan’s pulsing organ giving the song a drunken circus vibe. Though the re-inventions of the older material worked overall, the lone example that didn’t was, unfortunately, the last song of the evening. Where "Living Room" traditionally has a down-home, almost country vibe, the live rendition (which replaced the album version’s banjo with arpeggiated electric guitar) attempted to turn the song into a full-on rocker, but the results never quite gelled. Luckily, it wasn’t enough to mar an otherwise excellent set that showed just what St. Louis has been missing out on for the past five years. | Jason Green


Complete Tegan and Sara setlist:

I Know I Know I Know
The Con
Walking With a Ghost
Burn Your Life Down
Like O, Like h
Take Me Anywhere
Speak Slow
I Bet It Stung
Are You Ten Years Ago
Call It Off
Where Does the Good Go
Relief Next to Me
Not Tonight
When I Get Up
Fix You Up
Hop a Plane
Back In Your Head

So Jealous
Living Room

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