Tegan and Sara's new album is all about interpersonal tug-of-wars -- the occasionally opposing forces of remaining true to oneself and another -- but there was no doubt Sunday night that the band and their fans were all pulling in the same direction.
The Quin twins kicked off their live blitz for Sainthood (due Tuesday on Sire/Vapor Records) by regaling adoring fans at the sold-out Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles with their Canadian charm and characteristic chattiness. Oh, and they played Sainthood in its entirety too.
"I don't care if you like it," Sara said, introducing a seven-song stretch of new material 15 minutes into the show, "I just need you to act like you do."
No problem there.
Ten years and six albums into their career, the 29-year-olds feed their fans' ardor like talk radio hosts. During Sunday's two-hour, 25-song love-in, the crowd squealed at every revelation, laughed at every joke and hung on every shred of stage banter, no matter how seemingly stultifying. Two fans even delivered to the stage a plastic alligator, a teardrop drawn beneath its eyes, a reference to the jaunty new song "Alligator" and its lyric "Sensitive, yes it's true / Alligator tears cried over you."
The main attraction has always been the emotional virtue of Tegan and Sara's songs -- even if they look no further than across the café table, or the pillow. But the music on Sainthood, with its more muscular synths, beefier bottom, and penchant for pop choruses, signals a band that may well be ready to move beyond "talking like a teen," as Sara sings in the new song "On Directing."
The evening's first three songs, the title track from 2007's The Con followed by "Walking With a Ghost" and "I Bet It Stung" from 2004's So Jealous, felt almost spindly compared to the seven Sainthood songs that followed. Included was the new single "Hell," a Tegan-penned song. "I feel awkward, because I've never had the single before," she joked. "I feel like the success of our new album is on my shoulders."
"Hell" is a rollicking, catchy-as-a-cold pop-punk song, and there was more of that later with "Northshore," a two-minute blast that's only a couple of whoa-whoas away from a cozy place in the Green Day catalog. "The Cure," which Tegan explained was originally written as a piano ballad, leans heavily toward the 1980s.
Backed by a band that included drummer Johnny Andrews, bassist Shaun Huberts, and guitarist-keyboardist Ted Gowans, Tegan and Sara then darted back into their archives for six numbers -- scoring nostalgia points with "Nineteen" and "Where Does the Good Go" -- before playing songs Nos. 8 through 13 off the new album. "The Ocean," "Sentimental Tune," and "Someday" made for a strong finish to the concert-within-a-concert.
Before ending the evening with three old songs (which included a hiccupped lyric on "Call It Off"), Tegan thanked the crowd for indulging the breadth of Sainthood. "I hear bands who say, 'We're gonna play one new song,'" she said. "We're narcissistic. We wrote 13 new ones -- listen."
Walking With a Ghost
I Bet It Stung
Knife Going In
Like O, Like H
Where Does the Good Go
Back in Your Head
Call It Off