“Is anyone in the audience tonight 19 years old or younger?” Tegan Quin, one-half of Tegan and Sara’s namesake, asked the crowd at The Masonic on Wednesday night. In response to the cheers and hollers from teenage attendees, she laughed, “The whole time you’ve been alive, we’ve been touring.”
In those nineteen years, the twin sisters from Canada have released eight studio albums, received an Oscar nomination and fashioned themselves into LGBTQ+ cultural icons. But if most fans were asked to point to a favorite record, or identify Tegan and Sara’s most emotionally raw album, 2007’s The Con would instantly come to mind.
To celebrate the record’s tenth anniversary, the duo conceived The Con X: Tour to acoustically play all 14 indie-rock songs of The Con in order and then reinterpret a handful of their other classics with the same treatment. To suit the show’s mellow tone, the usual standing area of The Masonic was filled with folding chairs; while the audience largely remained seated, they energetically cheered, yelled and laughed both between songs and after the sisters’ various remarks.
“Fans have been telling us in coffee shops, public restrooms, movie theaters, online and on social media for years, ‘play acoustically and talk’ — so that’s the show,” Tegan said.
During musical interludes, Tegan and Sara shared how their lives and artistry have changed since the 2007 release. The pair laughed about the length of songs on The Con, which they retrospectively dubbed “songlets,” sharing that they barely finished each song before moving on to the next. Sara opened up about her own anxieties and insecurities. This, in its lighter moments, manifested in an uproarious description of the pair’s struggle to not alert Sam Smith as they sat behind him on their flight to San Francisco that day. They bickered, talked over and lovingly mocked each other, all to the audience’s vocally affirmed delight.
Musically, Tegan and Sara’s toned-down and lightly stripped version of “The Con” gave each lyric of the song its due gravity, producing an even more affecting version. The added reverberation on “Floorplan,” which Sara described as “one of the most emotionally wrenching songs” on the album for her, gave her description an impactful audible counterpart.
The concert’s artistic choices were not solely embodied by the music, however. The lighting design of “Are You Ten Years Ago” procured perfectly timed flashes and color shifts with each strum of the onstage bass. For “Burn Your Life Down,” the lighting not only visually matched the song’s melody, changing with the beat, but it brilliantly lit the venue with a white glow on the lyric, “And I can’t see you in the light.”
“We feel really lucky to still be doing this,” Tegan shared. “So while we still have visibility and we still have the ability to get in the door and make people care, we’re going to try to redistribute some of that power and money and visibility.”
One dollar from each ticket for the tour goes to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, which fights for the economic justice, health and representation of self-identified LGBTQ+ girls and women. The cover album, The Con X: Covers — which features LGBTQ+ artists and allies (including Cyndi Lauper, Shura and Bleachers) reinterpreting The Con — was created by Tegan and Sara “to live on past the anniversary” after the concert wrapped. Volunteers staffed a booth in the lobby for the Foundation to collect donations and answer questions. All proceeds from purchases of merchandise for the Tegan and Sara Foundation and The Con X: Covers, both sold at the concert and online, benefit the Foundation.
As Tegan listed these facts, one woman held up $200 in cash and walked up to the stage to donate it to the Tegan and Sara Foundation. A line of people followed, with Sara crouched on the stagefront to thank and give a handshake to each. As shared on the band’s official Instagram, the San Francisco leg of the tour raised nearly triple the amount from prior nights.
In the show’s final speech, Tegan shared how anyone in the audience could make a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ women and girls. “Regardless if you’re a woman, or if you’re queer, however you identify, I think we should all work together to make the world a much nicer, friendlier, more open-minded place.”
Caroline Smith covers queer media. Contact her at [email protected].