Tegan & Sara @ Corona Theatre – 23rd October 2019

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I was super excited for the Tegan & Sara show, with its promise of chairs and no opener. It’s as intimate as a show at our beloved Corona Theatre can be. I know I’ve said some disparaging things about the Corona in past reviews, but I really do find it homey, and Wednesday night, it was set up exactly as I would have wished (and did, in this controversial piece). There’s tons of merch, both upstairs and down, and they sold signed copies of the artists’ recently released book, High School, which I bought immediately upon arrival because I read this review of it. (And it’s signed.) 

When I found my seat, on the balcony, it was exactly where I always sit – is this show my birthday party? As an event coordinator, I was super pleased, but as a fan of T&S and concerts in general, I had to text my sister, who I assumed was jealous of me (she never is, she was just at a different show) that this was a “proper” show. It just felt very well-managed, with all the benefits of being at Place des Arts but near much better restaurants and bars. Okay, I’ll stop. (All shows should be this organized! Okay, really done.)

Until Tegan sat down and started to read from their book, I hadn’t caught on to the fact that it wasn’t just going to be an intimate show, but also a book launch and a comedy show, all in a venue much smaller than they would typically play. Given that, it makes sense when, after performing “Hey, I’m Just Like You,” Tegan took the mic to share some rules. We’re grown-ups now, she explains, and we like things a certain way, and this is a very intimate experience – we’re all seated, we can see one another’s faces – so please: pretend it’s the 90’s and put away your phones, and save your bathroom breaks for during songs, and not when one of us is pouring her heart or telling a hilarious anecdote. 

If you’ve ever been to one of their shows, then you know that while Sara is more likely to be stressed out by supposedly ‘small’ details like the sound not working properly (Osheaga 2017), Tegan is forever her champion. “Ultimately,” Tegan quips, “you’re adults and you can do what you want, but just know that, if you do, Sara will secretly hate you.”  

Their regular concert banter was more on point than ever as they dipped in and out of storytelling, moralizing on the merits of LSD, and referring to themselves as LGBTQ icons (well, they are). I already loved Tegan and Sara, but I love them more for this gift of a concert that felt more like a stand-up comedy/variety show. It also felt like Sara and Tegan (as they were once known) carved out an intimate space for their true fans.

The show they are touring is a story about their teenage-hood, and it weaves seamlessly from book passage to home video to song, many of which come from their latest album Hey, I’m Just Like You. Though they recorded it this year, all of the songs were written by the sisters while they were in high school, which seems impossible. They offer up embarrassing tidbits to prove it, like “what shitheads [they] were,” though their teenage lack of moral compass is somehow redeemed by their acknowledgement of it in “Don’t Believe the Things They Tell You (They Lie).”

It was a completely entertaining evening. Highlights, for me, included the many references to their own fame, Sara playing a musical interlude over Tegan’s ‘Don’t Do Acid Just Because We Did, Or At All, Unless, Like, You Want To’ speech, and all the times I saw someone in the audience snuggle up closer to their person. 

I can’t believe they wrote so many of these songs, like “I’ll Be Back Someday” as teenagers, long before they were famous or even knew they could be. I felt spoiled, getting all of these fascinating details that not even my best friend would share with me. When Sara sang “Boyfriend,” accompanying herself on piano, after revealing her first intimate experience with her best friend, it felt like a shared raw moment. They closed the show with “Where Does the Good Go,” played by Sara (though Tegan is sure to mention it’s her song) with the audience singing along. The crowd was riveted and gave them a standing ovation. The show was filled with meaning and the message to spend some time with the ghosts of our teenage selves, not to be so dismissive of that young person you find so uncool, clumsy, and embarrassing. And perhaps to dig through what you created back then and see – is it really so terrible? 

I can’t have been the only person in the audience who was surprised by the format of the show. To say I was pleasantly surprised is a terrible understatement; I was immeasurably delighted, and I am still, days later, basking in the glow of the permission they gave me to love my awkward inner/younger self… and to put away my phone (and maybe read a book instead).

SETLIST:

  1. Hey, I’m Just Like You
  2. Don’t Believe the Things They Tell You (They Lie)
  3. Keep Them Close ‘Cause They Will Fuck You Too
  4. I’ll Be Back Someday
  5. Boyfriend (performed by Sara alone)
  6. Divided
  7. I was a Fool (performed by Tegan alone)
  8. Call It Off
  9. Closer
  10. Back In Your Head
  11. White Knuckles
  12. Please Help Me
  13. Where Does the Good Go

Review – Carrie-Ann Kloda

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