Concert Reviews

Tegan and Sara w/Steel Train + Holly Miranda @ Lakewood Civic Auditorium – 03.28.10

No one has ever accused identical twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quinn of being shy. Even playing in the most awkward of venues that could make any performer uncomfortable, Lakewood Civic Auditorium, which is, in fact, an auditorium set in a high school, two of the chattiest girls in indie rock were not one bit reserved. They told stories…. All. Night. Long.  In all honesty, I could probably write two separate reviews: one on the Canadian girls’ music, and another on their story telling.   But who wants to read an article on Tegan and Sara’s story telling abilities? … Really? You do?  Well, too bad.  Aint gonna happen.  Let’s get into the good stuff…the rock n’ roll show…and maybe sprinkle in a few notes on the entertaining banter along the way.

Touring in support of the duo’s latest album, ‘Sainthood,’ Tegan and Sara ran through a nearly two-hour set featuring songs mostly from 2007’s ‘The Con’ and 2004’s ‘So Jealous.’ “The Ocean” got things off and running, followed by two more ‘Sainthood’ tracks, “On Directing” and “The Cure.” The melodies of the new songs sound just as swell live as they do on the album, with the girls’ voices complimenting each other perfectly.  Early on, colored lights splashed around the stage and crowd. A backdrop with outlines and what appeared to be a “color by number” painting (remember those?)  hung behind the band to complete a simple yet effective stage setup.

Noting the unique venue they were playing in, Sara went on a little rant about her high school days and wanting to the be outcast rocker type kid among all the hip-hop and rave kids back in the day, but at the same time, wanting to fit in, so holding back on those rock n’ roll aspirations to be like the “cool” kids.  Ah, high school, the awkwardness, the wanting to belong, to have friends, oh, the memories.  The title track off ‘The Con’ was accompanied by some stellar keyboard work, followed by another ‘Con’ track, “Nineteen,” which delighted my guest.

Being in the intimate auditorium allows for plenty of crowd interaction. Lots of “love” was sent to the stage, particularly for Sara. Everyone loved Sara…but that’s not why I mentioned that. Sara felt that Americans do love being in love with people, things, bands, etc.  “Americans say it more, you must understand it better than we do,”  said the Canuck.

“Speak Slow,” “Where Does the Good Go,” “So Jealous,” and “Walking with a Ghost” (famously covered by the White Stripes) really got the music kicking from the band. The banter on stage became less (a welcomed thing for some; disappointment for others). The twins really seemed to find a nice stride that held up through the rest of their set.

A few more new jams to finish up including “Alligator” and “Sentimental Tune,” which were separated by some band introductions, a note about the night being “weird, but good,” and apologizing that they had no cheerleaders for us, being in the high school and all.  A few thank yous, including to the crowd for supporting live music, and the opening set was finished up with an intense version of “Hell,” the first single from ‘Sainthood.’ The color coordinated backing band (red sneakers, jeans, blue button down shirts) joined the twin sisters for a few bows and a wave as they exited the stage for a moment.

Back came Tegan and Sara, sans band, with an acoustic guitar for Sara and a xylophone for Tegan, as they played a lovely, understated version of the tune “Back in Your Head,” going off without a hitch, save a sneeze mid song from Tegan. (Who, I should note, was not singing, but still, have you seen a performer sneeze on stage before?) A beautiful version of “Dark Come Soon” with just the two girls led into a story about going to shows in high school, mom driving them in their 1986 Aerostar van, and getting beat up at punk shows around town.  A sweet take on “Call It Off” left a number of folk’s happy, including my guest for the night as it’s one of her favorite jams.  As the gals promised earlier, they had to play “Living Room” from 2002’s ‘It If Was You,’ so the band jumped back on stage and they ran through the folksy, dare I say country-ish tune and left the crowd on their feet wanting more.

The high school proved to be a fitting setting for the painful, heartache song styling of Tegan and Sara. Who hasn’t pained over the loss of a love, let alone your first love during those very informative years during high school?  A “weird, but good” night it was indeed. Stories told, songs played; almost everyone enjoyed from beginning to end.

This is the second leg of a world tour for Tegan and Sara, accompanying them on both legs have been two great bands, Holly Miranda and Steel Train.  Opting to flip-flop the opening slot for the second leg, Holly Miranda took over the opening duties as this second leg kicked off.  The singer/songwriter from Brooklyn/Detroit/Tennessee kicked the night off with a half hour set including some tracks from her sophomore album, ‘The Magician’s Private Library.’ The dreamy mood of her songs drifted through the venue and bounced off the walls, filling the room with wonderful music.  Fresh off South by Southwest, she showed no signs of wear or tear from the marathon music fest, and breezed through her set without issue, inviting one of the members from tourmates Steel Train to the stage to join her for her final two songs, including a cover of David Byrne’s “Glass, Concrete, and Stone.”

Steel Train then took over the stage. The five piece band hail from Bergen County, New Jersey and bring a fun party vibe to the indie pop-rock music scene.  Touring on the heels of the 2009 EP, ‘Steel Train is Here,’ the band ripped through a typical opening band half hour set, including the title track from the EP, and a few from their debut album, ‘Trampoline,’ “Kill Monsters in the Rain” and “Road Song,” the latter which was played with just one guitar and the rest of the band huddled around one microphone belting out the tune Glee style. It was a cute moment. (I now feel lame for having said that.)  “I Feel Weird,” also from ‘Trampoline,’ featured some guests from Holly Miranda’s band and a mad percussion jam. Drum sticks were flying everywhere and found the band and tourmates having a blast, enjoying every second they get on a stage, relishing the fact that they get to do this for a living, and not wasting one second of the opportunity.

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