Published Oct 29, 2017Just over a year since their last appearance at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Tegan and Sara returned to their home base last night (October 28) in support of The Con X tour, celebrating the tenth anniversary of their seminal 2007 album. With no opener, the focus was all on the twins and their accompanying musicians, who assisted on keys and guitars. Tegan expressed that she doubted any "randos" were in the audience given the nature of the tour — one of many coy comments made during the Quins' banter breaks.
A screen emblazoned with The Con's tree trunk artwork lifted to reveal the sisters on a raised platform, before they launched into the album, performed track by track. Although the first couple of songs felt rushed, Tegan pointed out that each song on the album was "like, a minute long," reminding concertgoers of how much weight is packed into the brief record. The title track roused the audience, Tegan's vocal delivery feeling just as urgent as it was a decade ago.
The absence of percussion was felt as the Quins delivered a "mostly acoustic" set, yet their refreshed arrangements allowed the crowd to discover the songs anew. Little alterations like a haunting intro on keys to "Knife Going In" and a more piano-led rendition of "Burn Your Life Down" emphasized the songs' strength, as well as their ability to change and grow over time, much like the artists themselves.
What really stood out during Tegan and Sara's performance was how the complexities of The Con retain their power. As the sisters expressed, it wasn't an easy album to make. Despite the songs' brevity, their changing rhythms and vocal harmonies remain impressive. The desperate, full vocals of "Like O, Like H" shone, as did the hopeful key change of "Dark Come Soon," the raw poetry of the songs' lyrics highlighted by the careful instrumentation.
In typical Tegan and Sara fashion, there were stories aplenty. Sara recited a jingle-like song she regularly sings to her cat, Holiday, and the sisters debated over how great of a city Vancouver really is — Sara concluding that she is "polyamorous" when it comes to cities. The Quins possess a natural charisma that makes their shows consistently fun, which was evident last night despite Tegan's warnings about The Con's anxiety and sadness.
As promised early in their set, the show wrapped up with tracks from across the Quins' discography. Sainthood cuts "Red Belt" and "The Ocean" fit perfectly with The Con's material, showing the lasting impact of producer Chris Walla, who shaped the music across both albums. A stripped-back rendition of more recent hit "Closer" was an odd ending to the intentionally downtempo set, but managed not to take too much away from the performance's sequencing.
Sara made a poignant comment about the place she had been in emotionally and mentally while writing for The Con, as well as her experience since. She said that "things" — "medication, therapy, cats" — can improve one's life, but that she feels she is inherently a worrier. She expressed gratitude for being able to channel her anxiety into music that has helped others. The message rippled through those in attendance at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, and it felt like the true legacy of The Con.