Photos by Sue Sadzak
The atmosphere outside Massey Hall on Friday was full of anticipation. As people filtered in to their seats, it was clear that many were coming later for the main event, Tegan and Sara, only. What a shame for them, as the openers for this show were some of the most enjoyable I’ve seen in ages.
First was Too Attached, a brother and sister duo, with brother Shamik DJing and sister Vivek singing. Despite only having an online EP, Bronze, they displayed a clear image and sound as if they knew their way around a stage. The layering of sound and voice had a Disclosure-esque vibe in that the backing and vocals worked seamlessly together, in conversation to create a cohesive final product. The strong stage presence of Vivek brought everything together, wearing a glittering green onesie reminiscent of Bowie and singing that you “can’t be her only”. There was a very personal nature to the music, and lyrics such as “so unhappy with you” sounded like a personal confession you shouldn’t be allowed to hear. Some songs delved into more dance track territory in a very throwback Rick Astley pop style (even Vivek’s outfit’s block-like peplum and oversized earrings could be current high fashion while also straight out of Astley’s time). Vivek came out as trans on her birthday last year, and she wrote the song “Girl, It’s Your Time” about this period and dedicated it to anyone in the audience who identifies as trans or non-conforming. It’s an ode to embracing your femininity unapologetically, and unapologetic is a perfect word for this stunning duo.
In start contrast to Too Attached, Torres came out as an all-black ensemble, portraying a more laid back feeling as Mackenzie Scott plays guitar and croons into the mic. Scott, known as Torres, has an appealing “off” nature to her voice, leaning slightly towards country when she hits high notes, not quite a rasp, not quite belting, something unique. She sang out the Honey lyrics “heavy are you on my mind” with the vocal chops and sensibility of a 70s folk artist while remaining undoubtedly current while her quieter, introspective voice sounded almost like a different person. This mixture of classic folk rock influence and current indie melodies worked wonder and the sound and ensemble is certainly strong enough that they could be a show within themselves. The song “Sprinter” brought rock front and centre, a louder backing with a stronger guitar and drum edge hitting at something lasting. The sort of sing talking employed by Scott in this song conveys genuine emotion not like a private confession but an unabashed declaration.
At this point the hall was full, fans anxiously squirming in their seats, but the moment the lights went up on Tegan and Sara, the entire crowd rose in cheers as one. The set and outfits were a reflection of the aesthetic of their new album, Love You To Death, with white shirts, all white backing band and white lights blasting from behind: clean and minimal with a hint of the 80s. The duo opened with “Back In Your Head”, coming out the gate with their brand of restrained energy, less bouncing across the stage and more dancing on the spot, facial expressions conveying every emotion. If there were ever any doubt, Tegan and Sara played off each other perfectly, the twin “mind meld” proven live on stage. From “How Come You Don’t Want Me” to “Drove Me Wild”, the two switched the lead singer between songs seamlessly. Tegan told the crowd that this was their second time at Massey Hall, the first time feeling like a milestone in their career and this second time feeling just the same.
Something about their on stage presence and vocal tone made each track immensely enjoyable, and the simple nature of the stage and focus on lighting guaranteed Tegan and Sara were the focus at all times. As in “Goodbye, Goodbye”, the two often walked to the edge of the stage, singing directly to the audience, sometimes even pointing at a member dancing with abandon and sharing the moment with them. The duo was here for the audience and put everything into their performance, though you’d never know they were out of breath for a moment from their flawless vocals. The audience received proof of the effort, however, when we learned of Sara’s, well… shit foot. While discussing how they had turned 36 last month, Sara said that a couple songs back she had been standing on stage, feeling great, “and then I just broke my ankle for no reason.” The ankle, luckily, was not really broken, and Sara referenced a Louis CK joke where he goes to the doctor and receives the diagnosis that “your foot is just shitty now”. “This foot,” Sara finished, “is gonna act like this might be its last show,” which received applause and laughter from the audience before Sara launched into the next song, shitty foot and all.
For “Faint Of Heart” the duo were illuminated only by back light, and something about the use of lighting with the minimal stage set up was very effective throughout the show in conveying mood, particularly the colour choices made to reflect each song. For “Northshore”, an older track and fan favourite, the more rock-like atmosphere was enhanced by while lights blasting, while encore song “100x” bathed the two in blue light, conveying the more down beat, apologetic track.
The mixture of songs from older albums like 2007’s The Con with new tracks further conveyed the duo’s focus on making the fans happy over pushing new music. This attitude made for a wonderful and diverse show, with more intimate songs like title track “The Con” showing Tegan and Sara acoustic on stage while newer pop tracks like “U-turn” let them have fun with the upbeat tone. They thanked the audience often, saying,“We love you very much, we thank you very much for your support… it means everything to us.” Another nod to the fans, their final two pre-encore songs were popular favourites “Boyfriend”, from the new album, and the classic 2013 hit “Closer”. People were dancing in the aisles, entire audience blaring out the choruses and there was no way they could resist coming out for an encore with the crowd on their feet cheering and smiling, desperate for more. After dedicating the encore songs to the crowd, giving them one more taste, the two left Massey Hall one more time. Not, however, before making a final request. “I have one last thing to ask of you”, Tegan said to the crowd, before the stage went black. “If you are going to talk about this online, please, use hashtag #shitfoot. Thank you.”