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Music Review

The sister act works for Tegan and Sara

In concert, twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin fleshed out the songs from their sparse, quirky new CD, 'The Con.' In concert, twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin fleshed out the songs from their sparse, quirky new CD, "The Con."
Email|Print| Text size + By Marc Hirsh
Globe Correspondent / November 24, 2007

If Thanksgiving is about family, then it's hard to imagine a more fitting band with whom to spend the night before Turkey (or, as was suggested, Tofurkey) Day than Tegan and Sara. As a nearly packed house at the Berklee Performance Center looked on, the two Quins were caught repeatedly in the act of being sisters.

Their relationship would have been glaringly obvious even if they weren't identical twins. Sara hijacked Tegan's description of different audiences they've played before in order to tell a story about their mother, while Tegan sarcastically mocked Sara for a jokey metaphor that got away from her. It takes a lifetime of growing up together to hit that combination of peevish annoyance, gleeful exploitation of the other's faults, and nearly perfect comedic give-and-take.

But as funny as the two were playing off of each other, this was a concert, not a comedy act, and Tegan and Sara spent the bulk of their time fleshing out songs from the dry and quirkily sparse "The Con." Songs like Sara's "Like O, Like H" and Tegan's overwhelming, terrific "Are You Ten Years Ago" were like deconstructed new wave, ominous and angular at once. The disappointed "Call It Off," meanwhile, sparkled with the serenity of 1970s El Lay folk-rock.

With each of the group's albums sounding markedly different from its predecessors, it wasn't clear how the new songs would fit alongside older material (to say nothing of their nonironic, clock-ticking cover of Rihanna's "Umbrella"). But Tegan and Sara pulled off the spidery, piano-like "Floorplan" with as much aplomb as the propulsive and roaring "Speak Slow."

That's been their challenge of late, how to balance Tegan's more straightforward confessionals with Sara's more abstract, impressionistic songs without creating a fracture too large to bridge. They seemed to offer solutions on the all-downstroke, forward-leaning "Nineteen," which was like a tangent to an anthem, and the formerly poppish "Take Me Anywhere," given a new, fragmented arrangement that swung from solo acoustic verses to a booming "Be My Baby" beat during the chorus. At those moments, it was evident that Tegan and Sara still share the same musical DNA.

Opening act Northern State seemed slightly at a loss in a non-club setting, but the three women rolled with it in good humor. Backed by live drums and guitar, their brainy hip-hop was both freewheeling and tight even as they accepted the fact that the audience could appreciate them even while remaining seated.

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