Tegan and Sara / City and Colour - live in New York [first night] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Tegan and Sara / City and Colour

live in New York [first night] (2008)

live show

Tegan and Sara's two-night stay at New York City's Terminal 5 was a hotly anticipated event for me. Even though the band had just played the same venue a few months prior, I chose an upstate trip. That means I hadn't seen them play since November 2007 at Webster Hall, from an iffy vantage point no less and when I was much less familiar their catalog outside of The Con. This review mostly focuses on that first night, when the venue was a little more packed.

Girl in a Coma opened up with a half-hour set, and it was interesting at first: an all-girl three-piece that resembled Alanis Morrissette pushed back to the grunge era. But as the set wore on, it mostly devolved into a thick mess of guitar distortion and vocal snarling. The set had its moments -- there was definitely a Pixies influence running deep through things, notably in their "drinking song," which sounded like the band's own adaptation of "Where Is My Mind?". The band was actually much more compelling the next night, when the songs seemed more diverse and the set seemed to draw our interest more.

City and Colour, the solo project for Alexisonfire's Dallas Green, walked up just seven minutes after Girl in a Coma was finished. Green gets major points for that -- granted, he's playing by himself on this tour (unlike the full band approach he went with for his last U.S. tour). I find Green increasingly pleasant with every listen I give him and this set was no different. It was a light, heartfelt half-hour that impressively sustained interest considering Green's only tools were his voice and guitar -- plus an occasional harmonica bit. He completed his whole cabin vibe with aviator glasses, patchy beard and a sweatshirt with a painting of arctic wolves on it (the next night, a red flannel shirt) -- you know, something that looked like leftover wardrobe from "Napoleon Dynamite."

"He looks like my dad," I overheard one girl say. "If he was, like, ten years younger."

Set list (8:32-9:03):

  1. Body in a Box
  2. Waiting
  3. Day Old Hate
  4. Sam Malone
  5. As Much as I Ever Could
  6. Comin' Home
Tegan and Sara then took to the stage with raucous cheering and an interesting light show setup as the backdrop. Chinese lanterns hung sporadically in the back, with vertical light objects that would flash intermittently. They worked pretty well for the more lush, anthemic songs that seemed destined to beautifully fill big venues like this -- "Nineteen" and "So Jealous," for example.

Seriously, they have the most entertaining and engaging stage banter in the business. Sara tends to go off on weird and awkward tangents, but it works because it's so conversational. She somehow went into a diatribe on herpes before "Burn Your Life Down," which is when she also joked about how bloggers/writers at the show would go home and draw criticisms like, "Went on for too long." "Disrupted flow of the set." Amusing and, at least as far as this review goes, ironic.

As insanely receptive as the crowd was, the vast majority was very staid for the set. Most chose not to sing along or even move, really, exhibiting overt politeness to the sisters and their backing band. It was a bizarre calm, really. But between songs they would routinely throw gifts on stage, which over the course of both days included glittery gold dance shorts, headbands, an opened one-serving container of Frosted Flakes and a Special K bar ("This is terrible for you. Don't you have a Whole Foods?"). Another girl threw up her bra, asking them to sign it and return it (which Tegan actually agreed to do).

Anyway, since they'd done so much U.S. touring already the last year or so, they chose to delve into a decent amount of old stuff. "Superstar," which dates back to one of their first demos, was thrown in, while one from If It Was You snuck in (but no "Monday, Monday, Monday" unfortunately, even during the Monday show).

One song that Tegan described as "sorta new" was very cool. It was devastatingly morose, with Tegan putting heavy repetition on the foreboding line, "If I love again...," and gave the song a much different vibe than what one tends to expect from the band. However, it still managed to be a punctual, concise pop song, which they're experts on. Perhaps we can expect it on their next studio LP, due out in 2009.

They also played "One Second," a B-side from last year's previously iTunes-only I'll Take the Blame EP, since it was finally physically pressed and on sale on this tour. I was pretty iffy on the song at first, but after another listen of the studio version and seeing it twice live, I'm sort of into it; Tegan's bizarre rambling and the catchy crooning chorus make for a quirky, good time.

I could've gone either way with the "Umbrella" cover. It was cool the first time around, but its novelty has sort of worn off by this point.

The first encore song was a duet between Tegan and Dallas, where they informed us the second night that it was an old Tegan and Sara song reworked. I really have no idea what song it was, but I know one of the lyrics was "go and get wasted."

Set list (9:22-10:56):
  1. You Wouldn't Like Me
  2. I Bet It Stung
  3. Burn Your Life Down
  4. Walking with a Ghost
  5. Hop a Plane
  6. Superstar
  7. "sorta new" song
  8. Are You Ten Years Ago
  9. Like O, Like H
  10. Love Type Thing
  11. I've Got You
  12. Umbrella [Rihanna cover]
  13. Floorplan
  14. Living Room
  15. Speak Slow
  16. Where Does the Good Go?
  17. One Second
  18. So Jealous
  19. Call It Off
  20. The Con
  21. ? [Tegan and Dallas duet]
  22. Relief Next to Me
  23. Nineteen
  24. Back in Your Head
Yeah, I wasn't really expecting this to be a bad show. After seeing them twice more, I've seen the proof that Tegan and Sara are as capable a live band as on record. Then again, "capable" is probably a sore understatement.