Review: Tegan and Sara at the Levitt Pavilion at Steelstacks

by theelvee_w2oe3m

Reviewed by Justin Burkhardt

Canadian twin sisters Tegan Rain Quin & Sara Kiersten Quin, better known simply as Tegan & Sara, played the 2nd concert in the new Yuengling Summer Concert Series at the Levitt Pavilion at SteelStacks in Bethlehem on Monday. After 15 years and 7 albums together, the sisters have evolved their sound from indie rock darlings to a mainstream pop with a new wave/80’s synth feel. While some bands may struggle with this sort of evolution, Tegan & Sara excel and are coming into their own as they climb further towards mainstream success. Still touring in support of their most recent album, Heartthrob, the sisters performed 9 of the 10 songs from the album, which debuted in January 2013 at #3 on the Billboard 200. Heartthrob is a fantastic pop album which sounds just as good, if not better, when performed live.  The album, the winner of three Juno Awards, is the sisters’ most upbeat record to date which allows for them to be more flexible on stage and allows the audience to have more upbeat music to dance to. 

Before the concert, Tegan & Sara took part in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) where they said one of their favorite artists that they’d like to record and tour with would be Robyn.  It was a very fitting choice as their new sound is Robyn-esque, particularly their biggest hit from Heartthrob, “Closer.” The song peaked at #1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Songs chart and was the sisters’ first single to ever chart the Billboard Hot 100.

The sisters started the show with “Goodbye, Goodbye”, the third single released from Heartthrob, a post-break up empowerment song.  Despite a setlist heavy with newer music, there was good news for fans of their older material. They performed some of their older hits including “Monday Monday Monday”, “I Know I Know I Know”, “Living Room”, and “Walking With A Ghost”.   Quite frankly, these older songs sounded better and  more polished with the new, bigger-sounding 4-piece band behind them. The same applied for cuts from their more recent albums such as “Alligator”, “Back In Your Head”, & “On Directing”. Tegan & Sara prove that while their sound may have changed, they’re still able to perform their older hits with the same emotion as when they first recorded them.   There aren’t many indie acts that have been able to successfully pull off both an indie rock and mainstream pop sound, but these girls are doing just that.

For one fan from Washington D.C., who caught the band the night before in CT, the new sound is not favorable.  She said that while she’s still a fan of the group, some older Tegan & Sara fans aren’t taking to the band’s new direction.  Sure, Tegan and Sara might lose some of their diehard indie fans in the process, but more mainstream music fans will likely start gravitating towards them in the future if their music continues to head in the direction it is currently going.  It’s true that they might not have that old indie garage sound they had when they started out, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Artists evolve and try new things, and as long as they remember and respect their musical past, we shouldn’t hold this against them. Even if the sisters have angered some older fans with their new direction, they sound better than ever and are simply too talented musically to be confined to being just a small indie rock band. The girls are no longer teenagers struggling with their identity, so people who expect the new music they make to be the same as when they were younger just aren’t being realistic. If anything the sisters should be given a lot of credit for being talented enough to pull off the changes they’ve made so well.

Tegan & Sara spent part of the evening interacting with the small , yet enthusiastic crowd. (Seriously, where was the support for this concert, Lehigh Valley? This is why we can’t have nice things)  The girls have become known for their playful banter with the audience and they continued to keep the crowd engaged throughout the show. It’s no surprise that the sisters are one of the better groups I’ve seen when it comes to interacting with their crowd because they’re truly seasoned vets when it comes to live shows. The duo are one of the hardest working groups in music and they have toured all over the world including headlining tours, numerous music festivals (including last weekend’s Firefly Festival in Delaware), and opening up for bands like The Killers, Neil Young, Jack Johnson, The Black Keys, Paramore, and Weezer. All of that experience pays off when you see them live as their concerts really are a good time and you can tell the band respects and appreciates the support of their fans.

Though the crowd was into the sisters’ performance all night long, they were most energetic during “Closer,” which Tegan & Sara chose to perform as their last song before their encore.  If I had one minor complaint about the concert (besides the lack of “Everything is Awesome,” their hit song with The Lonely Island from The Lego Movie soundtrack), it would be the first two encore song selections: “Call It Off” & “Dark Come Soon”. While both are good songs, they would have been a better fit in the middle of the set and not as two thirds of the encore, as the crowd was still coming down from hearing and dancing to the show’s first ending, “Closer”. However, Tegan & Sara ended their encore with an absolutely stellar cover of Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open The Door” which sounded so good that I really wish they could get the rights to record and release it as a single or bonus track on their next album. It was a great choice to end the concert as the sisters’ take on it was best cover version that I’ve ever heard and almost better than the original.

Overall, Tegan & Sara’s new and bigger sound fits them well and the girls seem to finally be creeping closer and closer to real mainstream success. They’ll be touring this fall opening for Katy Perry, which seems like a good fit musically and professionally for the direction the sisters are headed in. If their music evolution stays on the same track, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tegan & Sara continue to reach new heights. These extremely talented sisters truly deserve a larger fan base and to play in bigger venues and in front of bigger crowds, to match their new and stronger sound. Trust me when I say this, if you ever get a chance to see them live, you most definitely should.

Opening act Gold & Youth, an indie rock/electronic group fromCanada, had a unique and innovative sound to them. Their sound mixes electro/futuristic melodies with pop hooks. Keep an eye out for Gold & Youth, because I think with just a little more seasoning they could really become a big hit amongst the indie music crowd. The second opening act was My Midnight Heart aka Angelica Allen, a singer/songwriter who previously toured as a vocalist for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. My Midnight Heart had a big voice with an avant-garde pop sound, which felt a little like Bjork meets Kelis.

Set List:
1. Goodbye, Goodbye
2. I Couldn’t Be Your Friend
3. Back In Your Head
4. The Con
5. Walking With A Ghost
6. Monday Monday Monday
7. On Directing
8. I Know I Know I Know
9. I’m Not Your Hero
10. I Was A Fool
11. Now I’m All Messed Up
12. Sentimental Tune
13. Alligator
14. Living Room
15. Shock Your System
16. How Come You Don’t Want Me
17. Drove Me Wild
18. Closer

19. Call It Off
20. Dark Come Soon
21. Let My Love Open The Door (Pete Townshend Cover)


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