Set within the classy walls of the Wilbur Theater in Boston, Tegan and Sara’s stop off their international tour was all at once a tearjerker, an intimate catharsis and a room full of roaring laughter.
As a first timer to their show, it was unlike one I had ever experienced before. This was mainly because of the inexpressible sense of community and safety that they were able to foster amongst complete strangers. Picking up my tickets by the booth, I noticed a printed piece of A4 taped to the wall, stating that all genders, races, sexes and beliefs were welcome. Below the statement was a reference to their foundation - the Tegan and Sara Foundation, formed to fight for LGBTQ and women’s rights. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of why these twin sisters are beloved international LGBTQ icons.
Before we get into the show review, I wanted to share part of a letter from their website, to set the tone. They stated:
‘Through the Tegan and Sara Foundation, we can be proactive with our support rather than wait to react to discrimination as it occurs. We will support the work of other organizations who have been fighting for LGBTQ and women's rights by raising funds and awareness for their initiatives. We will fight against the repressive legislation of the incoming Trump administration. We will fight against regressive homophobic, transphobic, and misogynistic legislation. We will fight for economic, racial and gender justice. We started the Foundation to dismantle the systems of inequity that prevent LGBTQ girls and women from reaching their full potential. Together, we can make a difference.’
You can learn more HERE.
As the lights dimmed, we were met with the vibe of a bed-time story introduction. Reading from their recently released book High School, it generated a hush within the crowd, as they verbally transported us back to their childhood, in the 1990s. After a gentle acoustic song, they took the mic and welcomed the audience, who roared with appreciation. Masterfully, they set the ‘house rules’ for the evening. “Leave when music is playing [not during the spoken word sections] because we can literally hear your hair growing.” That one generated some giggles. “No phones. We want to recreate the ‘90s…. And we can f*cking see you.” Those giggles turned into more of a guilty roar. “And no fighting.” Even if that had been an issue in some of their shows, it certainly put the cherry on the stand-up comedy cake.
Finishing up, the last rule was to treat the moments of reading from their book like those during church or school. Although it was included in the cloud of humour at the time, during show these excerpts ended up being accompanied by a side of tears from within the dark audience.
They’re masters of honesty, humour and wit. Drawing together the concept of sharing old songs and excerpts from their memoire book to guide us from their current, more compassionate perspective, through their teen-age sexual awakening was incredibly powerful.
They had salvaged old footage and self-written songs from the ‘90s, a time when they separately struggled with accepting themselves. At the same time they both, independently of each other, stole their step-dad’s closeted guitar to write about the pains of their experiences, of secretly being ‘in the closet’ [forgive the pun]. Yet as it turns out, their story is incredibly compelling due to the parallel timeline of the sisters simultaneously discovering their interest in girls. They shared how they’d fallen in love with their best friends, how accepting this became intertwined with becoming famous through their music, and how they experimented with LSD to eventually become closer as sisters.
The music was simple. Guitar, raw vocals and piano (and an old fashioned metronome at one point.) They turned a few ‘wrong’ notes into a laugh. And what shone was their love for their music and the depth of the story that they were sharing with the audience. It is easy to forget that the technical mastery of an instrument is ultimately in service of expression - but without expression there is no point of all the technique in the world. So although the performance was acoustic and pared down, their story of turmoil and confusion blossoming into love, connection and freedom shone like a diamond.
In sharing their story, they have opened up a space for those in similar situations of struggle to feel comforted. Comforted that no matter the era, age or gender, embracing how sexuality and the discovery of attraction for another individual regardless of their ‘labels’ is never something that should be suppressed. Tegan and Sara have already inspired a generation, but continue to do their work through their hands-on personal and down-to-earth persona and live performances. All I could think about for the rest of the evening was how incredibly cathartic yet unequivocally poignant the show’s energy was.