Most artists releasing their ninth album might feel the need to forget the early awkward days when no one would pay attention to them, but Tegan and Sara do not see their messy, formative years that way at all. The twins have embraced and celebrated their roots through the release of their new album, Hey, I’m Just Like You, and first memoir, High School.
The Corona really felt like a theatre last Wednesday, as Tegan and Sara brought their Hey, I’m Just Like You tour to the city. They had set up chairs on the ground and had ushers in the alleys directing everyone to their purchased seats, already hinting this would not be your typical concert. The stage was simply decorated in two halves: a keyboard and guitar amps on the right, and stools and a bookcase on the left with about a dozen journals on it.
By 8:10 p.m. everyone had found their seats. As the lights went down, Tegan came out, and began reading the first memoir excerpt: a vivid childhood memory about her sister’s night terrors. Afterwards she revealed how she had only recently found out it was her and not Sara who this story was actually about, and wondered aloud how many of her memories were really her own.
Tegan made her way over to the right side of the stage as the LED lights illuminated the keyboard and amps. Sara joined her sister for their first acoustic performance of the title track “Hey, I’m Just Like You.” This sequence would repeat itself throughout the night: memoir excerpts from each sister, followed by a song with a similar theme. Every few tracks, archive footage of them in their highschool bedrooms would show up on screen, with Tegan or Sara narrating or cracking jokes over it.
Even the smallest cough could have been heard over the acoustic tracks and readings, yet the crowd was totally silent except when time to cheer. They were laughing just as much as they were tearing up, as the chapters covered everything from their first kisses, water beds, and acid trips (“don’t do drugs kids,” they giggled. “It was the 90s.”), to bad reviews, internalized homophobia, and the fear of how coming out would ruin their careers.
The tracks from the new album worked with just the two of them on stage, and made up half the setlist. With just guitars and keys, it sounded like polished versions of the original demos, and let the lyrics and storytelling shine. Songs covering the feelings of fearing the future, and messy first relationships like “Hello, I’m Right Here” and “I’ll Be Back Someday” felt like two teenage girls wrote them in their bedrooms. Unfortunately the singles from previous albums they incorporated onto the setlist like “Closer” and “I Was a Fool” left me missing the live drums and band they usually tour with.
After two hours and upon reaching the end of the memoir, Tegan and Sara wished us a wonderful night, summarizing their show as an invitation to “visit [our] younger selves more often and be more compassionate to them.” While it is tough to define exactly what this show was, and I still hope to get the chance to see them in concert with the band one day, they really do have something special, raw and vulnerable on their hands.
Photo by Susan Moss