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SAN FRANCISCO — A funny thing happened when Tegan and Sara were working on their new memoir High School: They discovered an old demo tape that they recorded in their teens. Realizing the songs could still hold up today, they re-recorded them, making use of the production skills they’ve accumulated over the years, and their ninth album, Hey, I’m Just Like You, was born. The duo made a stop at the Sydney Goldstein Theater on Tuesday to promote both the book and album.
But instead of just playing music, the night was billed as an intimate acoustic affair with Tegan and Sara showing the found video footage and reading excerpts from the book to complement the songs in order to tell stories from their youth. The unique format was a perfect vehicle for them to showcase new songs, as well as new versions of their oldest songs. The stories they told were sometimes vulnerable, humorous or powerful.
The stage was set up as a high school hallway, with a backdrop of lockers. Tegan and Sara came out and thanked the audience for its patience, since the start of the show was delayed. That’s because several hundred tickets were snapped up by scalpers, and the duo decided to void those tickets. Instead of letting seats sit empty or let fans pay the scalpers, Tegan and Sara decided to let fans pay what hey could for the empty seats on a first-come opportunity, with the money benefiting their LGBTQ foundation instead.
They then they launched into the title track of the new album, replacing the album’s synth-pop style with a dialed-back arrangement. The show consisted of the duo playing an acoustic guitar and keyboard. This created an intimacy suited for the nostalgic stories Tegan and Sara wanted to share.
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After warming the room up with a song, the sisters settled into a cadence of alternating between reading experts of their book, telling stories and showing old video footage before connecting them with one of their new songs. Fans of the Quin sisters would be unsurprised to hear that there was plenty of banter throughout the night. Tegan and Sara are no strangers to riffing with each other and the audience, and the subject matter of awkward youth development was fertile ground for plenty of laughs.
After rolling a few clips of the sisters goofing off in their bedrooms in the ’90s, the two spoke about how they struggled with forging their own unique identities growing up as identical twins. This led into “Don’t Believe The Things They Tell You (They Lie)” and “Keep Them Close ‘Cause They Will Fuck You Too.”
The next set of stories included Sara Quin’s experimentation with cannabis and LSD and how she eventually used it to reconnect with her sister after they had drifted apart during early adolescence. These stories were reflected in the next songs; “You Go Away And I Don’t Mind” and “I’ll Be Back Someday.”
Adolescent love was broached as well, with stories of the girls’ misguided attempts at fitting in at school with boyfriends led to a few songs, which led to folky arrangements of older songs “Boyfriend,” “Divided” and “I Was A Fool.”
More video clips helped show how the sisters realized they were going to find love differently from their classmates. This culminated in performances of “Call It Off,” “Closer,” “Back In Your Head” and “White Knuckles.” Finally, the stories turned to how Tegan and Sara got their start in music with a story about winning a local music competition called Garage Warz, illustrated with concert closers “I Don’t Owe You Anything,” “Hello, I’m Right Here” and “Where Does The Good Go.”
Follow writer Josiah Skallerup at Twitter.com/josiahskallerup.