Words & Photos by Scott Murry
Halloween may be one of the best nights to see a band play live. They’re excited, you’re excited, people dress up and things get weird. This year Tegan and Sara played at Boston’s House of Blues to a sold-out crowd of 2,500 giddy fans. It didn’t look totally packed, but a bouncer was quick to point out to me the generally younger (hence slimmer) crowd makes a difference. He suggested that if you’re around on a sold-out Dropkick Murphys night—it’ll look a bit more jammed with an older (larger) fan base.
The venue was quickly filling in for openers Torres, the singer/songwriter project of Mackenzie Scott. With a couple of albums under her belt, the young anti-Southern belle has a compressed rage that inspires erratic stage movement. Grimacing and popping in robotic rhythms, it’s a tense Devo-esque presence. The erratic behavior matches her down-tempo, mellow keyboard compositions.
As Le Tigre’s “I’m So Excited” played on the PA, the crowds moved forward awaiting the headliner. Aside from being a full venue, the twin sisters were live-streaming on Facebook with Live Nation to reach another who-knows-how-many-fans online. Soon the band appeared in all white, with the namesake ladies topping off their ensemble in leather jackets. With the hashtag “tands4halloween” fueling the costumes du jour, many fans emulated their heroes. In the front row, hands stretched out to the stage like a zombie hoard. Blood wasn’t the goal tonight, just a brief high five or brush of flesh from their one of the folksy frontwomen. Although given some of the gory, obsessive costumes, I’m sure the simple handshakes were daunting for the singers.
Doing their best as kind Canucks, Tegan said, “It’s so easy to dress as Tegan and Sara, just put on a leather jacket.” They continued to compliment everyone like a proud couple of moms, calling out all the superheroes, breakfast foods, and miscellaneous costumes. “Tonight I’m Sara, duhhh,” Tegan quipped. The back and forth was very sisterly, with everyone vaguely anticipating hair-pulling or marking off stage halves for each other to stay on. Tegan tried forcing Sara to pick a favorite album from their career. Completing dodging an answer, she pushed them into beginning “The Con” with just their voices and an acoustic guitar. The beloved track began a string of pared down versions from their back catalog. It was a nostalgic break from the poppy, synth-driven setlist. The songs also showed how their voices had changed over the years; playing “Nineteen” the harmonies flowed softer and deeper, in a serenade quality. It was an appropriate adaptation of their early punk-tinged tracks to reach their more recent pop sensibilities.
Waxing nostalgic a bit further, Tegan said, “The first time we were playing [Boston] was TT the Bear’s [and] we got snowed in. They shut down all of the city for the snowpocalyse … but it was like any other day in Calgary! I have fond memories for this city.” Sara chimed in, “It’s very Canadian of you, how you’ve only talked about the weather so far.” And despite being neighbors of the North, Sara later informed, “Boston, I wanna have a talk with you. This is a very big year. I’m Canadian. I won’t tell you ever in a million years who to vote for.” As she spoke everyone on stage behind her wore Hillary Clinton masks. “I’m hoping for the best outcome this election.” Not strangers to supporting LGBTQ rights and equality, she wrapped up saying they’ll return to the states to play again, “when it’s not Donald Trump running this fucking country.” The stump speech was met with big cheers. Very big cheers. Very big, good cheers.
They wrapped up their set with four hits from new album Love You To Death. A run of lush pop gems that pulled their dance-floor stage of uplighting all together. And their encore celebrated the big day as Tegan tossed on a ghost sheet to perform “Walking Like A Ghost.” The final song handpicked a pickle, deviled egg, toast, and beetle juice-costumed fan from the audience to dance to “Stop Desire.”
Back in Your Head
I Couldn’t Be Your Friend
How Come You Don’t Want Me
Drove Me Wild
Faint of Heart
I Was a Fool
Shock to Your System
Call It Off
I Was Married
Hang on to the Night
Walking With a Ghost