Tegan and Sara @ Albert Hall, Manchester, 19 Nov

The Canadian duo lay bare their teenage years in endearing, and slightly frustrating, fashion

Live Review by Joe Goggins | 29 Nov 2019
  • Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara's first ten or so years marked the Canadian twins out first as scrappy punk upstarts, then as refined indie rockers. In 2009, Sainthood began a dalliance with electronica that would later become a full-blown love affair on Heartthrob and Love You to Death. Their no-fucks-given embrace of pop felt like the culmination of years of unapologetic slow burn when it came to their identity and their sexuality, which is perhaps why they’ve chosen this particular moment to pause and reflect.

Their latest album, Hey, I’m Just Like You, is comprised entirely of songs penned around 20 years ago, when the pair were still teenagers. Accordingly, it serves as the musical accompaniment to their witty and poignant memoir, High School, released the same week. This tour features a setlist largely based around stripped-back renditions of those songs, as well as a clutch of hits and rarities, punctuated by readings from their memoir and airings of old home videos that are frequently funny and occasionally profound.

They played at this same venue the last time they were out on a conventional full band tilt, so it’s instructive that just as many people are willing to follow them down this engaging, if sometimes indulgent, rabbit hole. The stories they spin, both in song and speech, of the dizzying confusion that teenage queerness brings are doubtlessly familiar to many in the crowd. Musically speaking, it’s a treat to hear them fall back on little more than their uncanny blood harmonies. It speaks to their prodigious talent, too, that the Hey, I’m Just Like You material holds up so well.

Still, this is fans-only fare and wouldn’t provide an easy route in for newcomers, in the way that the likes of Closer and Boyfriend (slightly stilted in acoustic form) would if they were presented as on record. Few insights are offered beyond straightforward readings from High School, and for all the power that the home tapes have – and they truly do veer between hilarity and heartbreak – a little expansion might have gone a long way.

This tour was a one-off, and a worthy gamble; an evening of communion between fan and band. It’s just that it’s a little bit of a closed shop.