Last night, I went to watch indie rock duo, Tegan and Sara, at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ. My friend Greg and I purchased our tickets from Jack’s Music Shoppe in Red Bank back in mid-August, and we’d been looking forward to the concert ever since. Neither of us had ever seen Tegan and Sara perform live, but we were both well versed with their music.
Last night was my first concert in a long while, so it was great to be getting out and experiencing the live sounds. I haven’t been to Starland Ballroom since I went to watch Ryan Cabrera back in February 2005. The venue had been closed for the last two months of 2012 and most of 2013 due to Hurricane Sandy, but now Starland is back in full swing, and looking better than ever. They renovated very well. Starland’s sound system and lighting is stellar. Being a college student studying music technology and production, I was very happy with the quality of sound last night. But hey, I’ll get to talking about the show now~
Opening act was all-girl rock/new wave band, Plastiq Passion. Definitely a great opener for Tegan and Sara. I had never heard of them before, but the way they performed last night totally caught my eyes and ears. Full of energy and passion, Plastiq Passion got me bouncin’ and headbangin’! Sick guitar riffs and solos, driving drum beats, vigorous vocals, and dat bass~ Definitely recommend giving Plastiq Passion a listen. Hell, I recommend going to see them perform, because they put on a radical show~
Following Plastiq Passion was Willie Nile and his band. Rocking with some well written songs, influenced by life and everything that happens in the world today — one of his songs, “Occupy”, is about human rights –Niles and the band put on a driving and meaningful show that painted a story of his experiences and views.
Introducing Tegan and Sara was DJ Rich Russo, who was holding his 5th Anniversary party at Starland last night. It would be the first time since 2007 that Tegan and Sara were performing in New Jersey. Greg and I looked at each other, like, “Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap.” We couldn’t believe it. The crowd let out shouts of joy and approval. We all knew this would be one of the greatest shows we had ever seen.
And so, Tegan and Sara walked on stage, along with the rest of their band, and the room exploded. Tegan coolly greeted the crowd, “Let’s rock.” The first chord was strummed, the bass and synth kicked in along with the drums — first song, “Drove Me Wild”.
The crowd was bumping and singing out loud. The lights and fog were going, giving the room a cosmic glow. Right after, they seamlessly transitioned into “Goodbye, Goodbye”. When they ended that song, Tegan asks, “Are you ready to sing?” Damn right. The band starts and the synth plays that downward stepwise phrase that everyone knows is, “Back In Your Head”. An older song! Crowd’s singing along to every word, and when the chorus comes, everyone’s hit with, “I just want back in your head! I’m not unfaithful, but I’ll stray!” Greg pointed out to me, “I love that line!” I nodded and grinned in agreement. A line so true.
With the guilty guitar riff, came “The Con”, to which everyone screamed. I was beyond ecstatic. “The Con” was my first Tegan and Sara song, and I was finally witnessing it live. Singing to every word and moving to the music, I took it all in. Remembered all of the emotions and experiences I related with the song, and just putting it all out their with the rest of the crowd and with Tegan and Sara playing. When you’re singing such a song with everybody else as the artist performs it in front you, it is a release.
Another old one, but a good one, “Walking With A Ghost”. Simple, yet haunting in its drone.
Tegan took the time to talk some, telling us how it was one of the guys’ birthday backstage. When he told them how old he was, Tegan was like, “We’re so old!” Tegan and Sara’s birthday being last week, they just turned 33. Tegan went on to say, “Our mom says that forties are where it’s at. She’s currently in her fifties, but she said it’s not as good as her forties. Thirties were alright, but not as good as her forties. And we all know that your twenties are absolute shit. For anyone under twenty, I don’t know how you even got in here. New Jersey’s wild. You can go to the bar if you’re 9, and they’re like okay. If you’re gay, eat shit.” We got a good laugh out of that~ So she goes on, “For everyone in their thirties, this one is for you. And for everyone in their forties, twenties…” Greg looks at me and we both exclaim, “It’s for everyoneee!” Then they played, “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend”.
Slowed it down with “Now I’m All Messed Up”. Good song to just sway along to. “I Was A Fool” followed, keeping the crowd cool. We were heading into the calm, and then picked it back up a bit with “Sentimental Tune”.
“Where Does The Good Go” drew everyone back in. The acoustic guitar riffs and bass intro cued everyone in. The tambourine started coming in and hitting on one of each measure until the chorus when the lead guitar joined in. Second verse, the drums came in, alternating toms and bass, leading us and waking us.
Just as we’re about to reach the bridge, Tegan asks, “Do you guys want to sing the bridge? Do you want that responsibility?”
We shout in accordance. The kick drum keeps us steady with each down beat, along with the bass and synth carrying the emotion that’s about to fill the room.
“Alright. The thing is, is that, you can’t just sing it. I say this every night, but I mean it every night. It’s not a shtick. You can’t just sing it like you’re standing at a concert. Like, I’m doing all the work. You have to carry all of this business. This is all on your shoulders. Yours, and yours, and yours…”
Sara stands, smiling to the crowd, nodding to her sister’s words.
“This whole show could collapse if we don’t sing this song the best it’s ever been sung. If you sing it half good, I will remember this show as the show where everybody sang it kind of good. So don’t be that audience. You gotta really sing it! Can we do that?!”
The crowd screams.
“I will get you started, and then you are on your own!”
She starts, “Look me in the eye–” and sends us off across the bridge. The entire room is singing their hearts out, welling with the utmost emotion, taking us to the last chorus, where Tegan and Sara start singing again, and lead us out.
Afterwards, Tegan starts talking again, about the next song they’re going to play. She says that when she wrote it she was at an extreme low. Sara spoke up and said, “I was with in bed with my then girlfriend, and Tegan called me saying, ‘You’ve got to listen to this song’, so I did. Then when I went back to bed, my girlfriend asked me what that was all about. And I said, ‘Tegan is so sad.'”
Tegan continues, “The first time I played this in front of a crowd, I was shaking. And everyone started shouting the words. When I go to the bathroom in public, some people stop me and say, ‘That song you wrote makes me cry so much’ and I think, ‘Wow, I have so much power making other people feel that kind of emotion.’ And I don’t regret ever getting that sad because I wrote a song that had that much power. If anything, I wouldn’t regret ever getting that sad again because it was worth getting that sad over.”
We’re all wondering what the song is, and then they start playing, “Nineteen”, and it hits us like, “Ohhhhhhhhh!”
They continued on with “Alligator” and “Shock To Your System”. Then they played “How Come You Don’t Want Me” which is one of my favourite songs off of Heartthrob. It was just really awesome hearing that one live. The lyrics are simple but honest and relatable. For most of the song, it’s as though you’re suffering this defeat. Then when the bridge hits — one day soon, I won’t be the one who waits on you — it’s this sudden triumph and you know you’re going to get out of everything okay.
Then, they introduced the band, and I was just super happy about that — I love it when artists recognize the people playing behind them. People often forget about the rest of the musicians who aren’t exactly in the foreground. Those musicians are the ones driving everything forward and delivering every little nuance to us. On drums was Adam Christgau — his drumming is absolutely fantastic. In the pocket, and keeps the beat grooving. He exhibits a helluva lot of energy when playing. John Spence on keys. Jasper Leak on bass. Ted Gowans, who has been with the twins since 2004, on guitar and keys.
Tegan announced, “We got two more songs for ya…. Hey, whether you want it or not, you’re gonna get an encore.”
So they went on to play “Feel It In My Bones” which I had never heard of before until then. Found out later that they did vocals for Tiesto on the song. It definitely felt more like an electronic dance number, I thought.
Last song was “Closer”! Of course. I had totally forgotten about it until the moment they started playing. The crowd was going wild. Greg said, “I was listening to this just today!” The lighting through the song was magical. Disco balls shooting stars around the room. So much energy and good vibes all around. Perfect ending song~
Right after, Greg and I went to get some merch. Bought myself the Go/Please Stay t-shirt, plus a small poster which I’ll frame soon.
Went back for encore. They played “Call It Off” acoustic. Totally stripped down. Greg was ecstatic. It was THE one song he was wanting to hear and he got it~ We exited out of the venue as they played “Living Room”. Got into the car right as everyone was running out, and dodged the inevitable post-concert traffic.
Overall, it was a stellar show. Awesome venue. If I ever get the chance to watch Tegan and Sara again, I definitely will. And I’ll be looking out for more shows at Starland in the near future since it’s so close and easy to get to.