Concert review: Tegan and Sara at Tampa Theatre (with pics)

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Both strapped on guitars and launched right into “The Ocean,” a fast-paced song from their new album with quick verses flowing into a calmer but powerfully catchy chorus: “It’s been so long since you said / Well I know what I want and what I want is right here with you.” It took me back to those countless nights driving alone, blasting their music loud enough to drown out my own dreadful voice; belting the song out with a thousand strangers was amazingly refreshing. I don’t want to admit that I was giddy, but I was.

They continued with two more songs from the new album, “On Directing” and “The Cure,” both pleading anthems about admitting mistakes and promising change.  After plugging their new video and challenging those who’d seen it to “remember the dance moves,” they struck the first chords to “Alligator,” a sharp-edged toe-tapper evocative of early Madonna piano-pop and driven [image-1]by a seriously grooving bassline that filled the room and demanded immediate dancing. When Sara cut through the all-drum breakdown with jazzy, deep synthesizer melodies, the place went bonkers. There are always those certain special moments in songs that you wait for at a live show, and this was one of them.

Tegan was quick to engage the audience, shameless in her skin, laughing at herself frequently. An extended exchange with the stage huggers involving a boob hat and the possibility that a few of them were lawyers from Ft. Lauderdale (something was definitely lost in translation here) encouraged more banter from the twins, who touched on intense family trials over monopoly, gave a hilarious account of a foolhardy security guard wielding a “buck knife,” and offered up childhood memories about looking too boyish at karate class. Sara was the more reserved of the two and sometimes even seemed embarrassed about Tegan’s candid disclosures of their tongue-tied past, revealing just how different the twins actually are despite wearing identical faces.

Tegan assured longtime fans that they’d play much of their older stuff and I was stoked about hearing the pop-punk melodies that were the soundtrack of my college life, the music that played as I navigated in and out of relationships … bad ones, good ones, one-night ones. They had a song that fit every situation I found myself enduring back then, like “So Jealous,” a one-time personal anthem of mine that permeated the auditorium and gave me chills. The verses are fleeting and self-reflective (“I don’t want to be part of the problem / I try so hard to get roughed up”) – but lead to an angry, shouted chorus that became the most thunderous moment of the show: “I get so jealous, I can’t even work.” I’m not ashamed to admit I got chills. It was not at all like the studio version, the second verse led by an assertive hi-hat measure and an intoxicating percussion groove by Tegan on bead shaker, and [image-2]the double-time rhythm contrasting with the long-winded lyrics and twisting the song’s original quality into something entirely new.  That verse was a highlight of the show and it even prompted a man ahead of me to put his 8-year-old kid onto his shoulders. The youngster waved his hands back and forth to the beat, all while wearing giant noise-cancelling headphones. I was puzzled but laughing my ass off at the same time.

Once the sisters made their exit, a tech jogged onto the stage and set up a glockenspiel. They re-emerged for the encore sans band and opened with a gentle, unplugged version of “Back in Your Head,” arguably one of their most commercially-recognizable songs. Tegan made the song extra playful by replacing the simple, all-too catchy piano notes with the tinkling bell-like tapping of her mallet against the glock’s metal keys.

The ladies closed the show with the beautifully layered vocals of “Call it Off,” a short but oh-so-sweet number that Tegan confessed to writing when she was extremely depressed. It features some of her most moving lyrics: “Maybe I would’ve been something you’d be good at / Maybe you would’ve been something I’d be good at.” As she sang her heart out to the song, most of us joined along with her.

Overall, it was a wonderful evening. Thanks for stopping in our neck of the woods, ladies. For me, seeing you live was long overdue, but it came at just the right time.


Ford Barsi is a 23-year-old Tampa resident and a USF sociology student due to graduate this summer. Barsi has been writing most of his life – he started out as an English major – so his father snagged the “Music Critic for a Night” Holiday Auction package for his son as a Christmas gift. He’s good, too, so you just might end up seeing his byline in here again in the future…

While most Americans were sitting at home, rooting for their native Olympians, I was cheering for two confident, talented, inspiring, totally loveable Canadians; twin sisters and travelers on a glorious journey celebrating the release of their sixth full-length and latest release, Sainthood. [All photos by Tracy May.]

Bubbly folk-rock duo Tegan and Sara drew all walks of life to Tampa Theatre this past Saturday night, from timid first-date wooers to rowdy groups of lesbians. If you weren’t among the Tegan and Sara devotees, you were either dragged out to the show by one or became one shortly thereafter.

Tegan and Sara hit the stage around 9:30 p.m. with three talented backing musicians. Naturally, the crowd blew a fuse. Tegan [pictured above] wore black from her shoes to her messy hair, suspenders and tattoos aplenty. Sara sported skin-tight leggings and an oversized button-up shirt, her face partially hidden by a severe fringe of dark hair. They were rock n’ roll adorable.

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