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Tegan and Sara were proof positive of the inherent connection between folk and pop music. During their sold-out performance at Los Angeles’ Club Nokia on Friday, the duo, comprised of Tegan and Sara Quin, juxtaposed their older indie numbers with notably poppy tracks from their new, seventh album Heartthrob, revealing a surprisingly seamless correlation between their songwriting then and now.
Heartthrob, which was released Jan. 29 via Warner Bros, finds the duo reveling in unabashed synth-pop, particularly on its flagship single “Closer.” But while the album might seem like a startling turn for Tegan and Sara, who kicked off their career with mostly acoustic folk numbers, in the context of their current live show it all seems to make sense.
The performance, heralded by an opening set from L.A. band Night Terrors of 1927, surged between these old and new tracks, conflating the styles in a way that confirmed that the Quin sisters have just been pop musicians all along. The audience, of course, was more interested in hearing the pair’s formative tunes, shrieking loudly for opening number “Back In Your Head,” off 2007’s The Con. When Tegan informed the audience that the musicians — and their dynamic backing band — planned to play some new songs, there was a slight lag in the enthusiasm. “We’ll win you over,” Tegan responded.
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And they did, although certainly Tegan and Sara’s devoted audience hardly needs much encouragement to follow the pair wherever they lead. The applause and screams were so overwhelming that Sara had to ask the crowd to turn it down. “When you scream like that over an acoustic song, I think there’s a fire breaking out in the building,” Sara said at one point. “I feel like I’m at a Justin Bieber concert. Just for this one song, I’m going to sing quietly and you’re going to sing in your heads.”
But those quiet moments were few and far between, with the emphasis largely on Heartthrob and its synth-driven numbers. Even the dancier tracks off the group’s last release, Sainthood, were amped up to match the buoyant quality of these new ones. “Alligator,” a track from Sainthood that revealed the duo’s pop predilection back in 2009, was bolstered by additional ’80s synth beats, which married the song to Tegan and Sara’s new tracks.
Although all of Heartthrob showcases Tegan and Sara’s skillful ability to craft a compelling hook, the standout of both the album and the Nokia performance was “Closer.” The single is the sort of potential hit that shows pop music can be rooted in real emotions. What a shame if radio station directors don’t add it soon.
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Friday’s concert showed a new side of Tegan and Sara, but the musicians know their core audience well. “This week I’ve been thinking about a lot of our past records,” Tegan told the crowd midway through the show. “People always say the same thing to me: ‘Oh my God, I love The Con. It got me through this thing — fill in the blank.'” In response to the audience’s affirming screams, she added, “We’ll be like a heritage act. We’re going to do a casino tour and just play The Con front to back, and you guys would love that.”
It’s true that 2007’s The Con is an emotional anchor in the band’s career, a pivotal collection of songs that inspire an almost immediate personal connection. But it’s been five years since the album came out, and the pair’s view of the world and their music has no doubt changed — something they revealed in their choice of encore. The final two tracks veered from The Con’s heartbreaking closing number “Call It Off” to the pair’s recent collaboration with Tiesto, a full-on dance tune called “Feel It In My Bones.” And somehow Tegan and Sara made these dissimilar tracks into a cohesive finale, one that confirms they’ve always been a little bit pop.
Back In Your Head
I Was A Fool
I’m Not Your Hero
Walking With A Ghost
Burn Your Life Down
Where Does The Good Go
Shock To Your System
How Come You Don’t Want Me
Love They Say
Drove Me Wild
I Couldn’t Be Your Friend
Now I’m All Messed Up
Call It Off
Feel It In My Bones
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