Seasoned performers always say that a little bit of pre-show jitters are a good thing. For Canadian singer-songwriters Tegan and Sara, the nervousness was palpable as they premiered new songs to a live audience for the first time. The 31-year-old twin sisters kicked off a set of North American tour dates at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre on September 23, two years after their last major show in the city Tegan calls home.
The nerves weren’t present when they opened with the fast-paced rocker “Arrow” from 2009’s Sainthood. This well-practiced tune saw the two standing at mics up front, both armed with guitars, with a four-piece band behind them and a set of boxes that would light up to the beat of the song. Tegan and Sara continued with a few more familiar tunes, “Walking with a Ghost” from 2004’s So Jealous, which showcased Sara’s strong multi-octave range; “The Cure”, where Tegan took the spotlight; and the ferocious “Hell”, which Tegan explained that she wrote for Vancouver.
Then came the time to debut a number of new songs, and the nerves and slight uneasiness began to set in. They started with “I’m Not Your Hero”, a melodic synth-pop sounding number featuring Sara mainly on vocals and keys/synth. Then came “Closer”, another synth-driven dance-pop-rock number that, at times, almost sounded similar to a Katy Perry song—not that that’s a bad thing. Both songs were very good, a slight change in direction from the grimier pop-rock sound we’re used to associating with Tegan and Sara, but still laced with their hard-edged vocals. A performance of EDM collaboration “Body Works”, which Tegan and Sara recorded with Los Angeles-based DJ Morgan Page, came complete with a seizure-inducing light show and instructions from Sara to “pretend you’re on crack at a rave at 3 in the morning”.
“The Con” followed by “Nineteen” from 2007’s The Con brought heart-rates back down, as did “So Jealous” and the pitter-patter of “Northshore”, which came after. But then it was time to debut a few more new songs. “Messed Up” suffered from an over-use of bass, and Sara’s usual on-point falsetto struggled some pitch issues. “I was a Fool”, another mid-tempo breakup tune fared no better, failing to grasp a firm melody.
Luckily, cheery renditions of “Back in Your Head” and “Alligator” picked things back up, while “Where Does the Good Go” and “Call It Off” revealed the band’s emotional side. Wrapping up the set with Tegan and Sara favourite “Living Room” off 2002’s If It Was You, the foot-stomping, hand-clapping number got an update with the addition of synths at the bridge.
Back for a three-song encore, Tegan and Sara first appeared alone on stage for an acoustic performance of “Dark Come Soon” featuring Tegan, followed by “Not Tonight” featuring Sara and a cover of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” tagged onto the end. The night finished on a high note with an upbeat performance of “Feel It in My Bones”, from another electronic collaboration, this time, with Tiesto.
The new songs weren’t perfect, but a hint of what’s to come when Tegan and Sara’s new studio album comes out in January 2013. With the debut out of the way, they’ll have the next couple of shows to tweak and refine live performances of the new songs. And the nerves should work in their favour.