Tegan & Sara get physical, emotive at Levitt Pavilion in Bethlehem
I’m not sure that I’ve ever been thanked more times in one hour-and-a-half span of time. The definitively-Canadian indie darlings Tegan & Sara are nothing if not kind, almost to the point of absurdity. Tuesday night, the Quin sisters brought their trademark brand of peppy sad-pop to the Levitt Pavilion in Bethlehem. Although not quite as packed as the recent Modest Mouse show there, the Pavilion saw a good turnout for a rather out-of-the-way venue.
Kicking off the night were fellow Canadians Gold & Youth. Fronted by Louise Burns and Matthew Lyall, the group shares many themes with the ever-popular CHVRCHES, but with a tad less reliance on the synth part of their synth-pop style. Primary support came from Brooklyn’s vibrant and eccentric My Midnight Heart – the stage name of singer/songwriter Angelica Allen. With killer dance moves and an incredibly dynamic voice, Allen captured the hearts of a number of us in the crowd.
As the sun set behind the reclaimed post-industrial landmark that is the Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces, the stage was set for the ladies of the hour. Coming on stage to deafening cheers and screams, the Quins stood behind a pair of synths and dropped right into a pair of bouncy songs from 2013’s Heartthrob – “Goodbye, Goodbye” and “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend.” Wasting no time at all, they proceeded into what is arguably their most famous song: “Back In Your Head”. In a move James Murphy would have been proud of, trading in synths for a pair of acoustic guitars Tegan & Sara seamlessly travelled back in time six years to capture the softer sounds of 2007’s The Con.
Despite the fears of many – myself included – that many of the band’s older songs wouldn’t appear during the evening’s set, the material spanned Tegan & Sara’s entire 15-year history. While certainly focusing more on Heartthrob than any other era, the setlist did a good job of both pleasing fans and staying true to how the Quin sisters feel about their own music. They made that comment themselves during an early break in the set: “Sorry if we don’t play your favorite song, it’s just sometimes we write music and then grow out of it. We just don’t feel that way anymore,” with Sara laughingly adding “Tegan writes all the famous songs.”
Famous or not, the most memorable moments of the evening came with the most brutally emotional of Tegan & Sara’s mostly heartbreaking songs. The ending of “Now I’m All Messed Up” found the twins singing “Go if you want” and “Please stay” over each other, fluidly illustrating the mastery they have of life in all of its highs and lows. A bit later in their set, “Alligator” tapped into almost universal feelings of betrayal and loss.
The Quins thanked the audience yet again, with Sara saying “This is our last song… Except for the encore which has like 17 songs.” Heading into “Closer”, the audience flexed its dancing muscle and finally got down with the theme of the “Let’s Get Physical” Tour. The encore did not, in fact, have 17 songs. Instead, it featured intimate versions of “Call It Off” and “Dark Come Soon” from The Con, and wrapped up with a cover of Pete Townshend’s classic “Let My Love Open the Door,” which found a natural thematic home at the end of the evening packed with sob stories.