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Friday, December 7, 2007

LastNight: Tegan & Sara at Zellerbach Hall — the Man-Fan-Review

Posted By on Fri, Dec 7, 2007 at 10:14 AM

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By Will Harper

I’ve been a Tegan & Sara fan for a while, but I’d never been to one of their shows. So I was curious to see what kind of crowd they’d attract at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Auditorium last night, and how I’d fit in (or not). I suspected that straight, 38-year-old recovering hesher dudes were not in the lesbian identical twins’ target demographic. My suspicions were quickly confirmed once I got to Zellerbach. No, there would be no lines to get into the men’s bathroom at this show, I could see. Yes, it was pretty lesbionic, which I expected.

What I didn’t expect was how young the crowd was—like mom-is-going-to-pick-us-up-afterward-in-her-Honda-CRV young. Then we sat down (Zellerbach is a seated facility) right behind these two hetero lovebirds who couldn’t have been older than 16. Being teenagers at a rock concert, they of course were all over each other. They couldn’t talk without pawing at each other. At one point, the girl was saying something and the dude absent-mindedly started outlining the bottom of her lip with his index finger. I was starting to get annoyed when I remembered I had engaged in plenty of public tongue wrestling at that age.

Tegan & Sara came on-stage dressed in tight black pants, and black cutoff t-shirts. They looked like they’d been cloned from a strand of Joan Jett’s mullet. They immediately launched into three songs off their latest album: “Dark Come Soon,” “The Con” (which is also the name of the album), and the techno-influenced, “Are You Ten Years Ago.” Then came one of the stranger—but pleasing--moments I’ve ever experienced at a concert.

Sara greeted the audience and then said for the next song she wanted everyone to turn around, face the exits and then clap to the beat with their hands over their heads. Usually, I hate these moments at concerts when performers exhort their fans to do as they say. I don’t know—I just don’t like feeling forced to do anything. I don’t even stand up for the National Anthem at sporting events (why do I need to pledge my loyalty to the state before watching the Giants lose?). But after I turned around and started clapping along to the crunchy riffs of “Hop a Plane,” I realized it was kinda fun and silly, as did most everyone else. After the song was over, Sara joked, “That’s a side of you I’ve never seen.”

After that, they played the song good enough to make a Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack, “Where did the Good Go?” By the end of the 90-minute concert, the Canadian duo played nearly every song from the new album, as well as a few selections from 2004’s So Jealous and If It Was You. (I was hoping they’d play “Superstar,” a track off their first or second album, but they didn’t do any numbers from their early years.) For the encore, they did a wonderfully spare version—just the twins, their guitars and voices—of “I Know, I Know, I Know.” For the second encore song, the rest of the band came out to perform one of my faves, “You Wouldn’t Like Me,” an ode to insecurity and self-loathing. But within a second or two, everyone stopped playing and Sara admitted she’d forgotten the words to the song. So they ended up just humming the verses till they got to the memorable chorus: “I feel like, I wouldn’t like me if I met me.” They finished with “Walking With a Ghost,” which was a modest radio hit three years ago (and has since been covered by the White Stripes) and “Living Room.”

The Quin sisters’ voices sounded great during the show, especially during harmonies and choruses. On some numbers, though, the bass and guitars overwhelmed everything else and overshadowed the vocals.

True to their rep, they told silly stories between songs like their first “concert” at age 16 when they played a neighborhood Halloween Party, which featured, to their delight, a casket filled with beer.

All in all, it was a fun show, although I don’t think Zellerbach was a good venue for them. Fans kept trying to walk down to the stage, only to be shooed away by the ushers back to their seats. The band apologized and said that next time their in town, they’d seriously consider a more intimate venue where standing up wasn’t such a big deal.

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David Downs

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