Review: Tegan and Sara talk politics, offer love to Florida at Ritz Ybor show
Exactly one week after election night, one couldn’t help but wonder what Tegan and Sara’s show Tuesday at the Ritz Ybor might look like.
Despite their Canadian heritage, twins Tegan and Sara Quin are deeply attuned to American politics, frequently discussing social justice, supporting Hillary Clinton and advocating for LGBT causes (money from the previous night’s Orlando show was donated to Central Florida LGBT organizations). They were devastated by Donald Trump winning the presidency, calling their show the day after the election “one of the hardest of our 17-year career” in a Facebook post.
Last week’s events could still be felt on their penultimate U.S. show on this tour, with the group claiming “we’re all warmed up and physically and emotionally exhausted from the election, so we’re pretty edgy.” Yet far from doom-and-gloom, Tuesday’s show was a big-scale, big-hearted rejoinder.
Opening was Nashville singer-songwriter Torres, a nice bonus. The performer has been making a name for herself off her critically acclaimed album Splinter and touring dates with larger acts, not unlike Tegan and Sara early in their career.
These days, the indie-pop duo have fully embraced the latter part of that combination on their last two albums Love and Death and Heartthrob. If the group has felt accessible sometimes beyond their actual audience, Heartthrob was them reaching for those big crowds and succeeding to a large extent.
Both records are the kind of ‘80s-influenced, synth-laden pop that's currently in vogue now thanks to artists like Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen (who has used Tegan and Sara for songwriting). But they're better at it than most, as evidenced by earworms like Closer and Boyfriend that got huge reactions from the crowd Tuesday.
Most of the setlist came from those last two albums. Yet they also made time for songs from their earlier discography, eight albums and nearing two decades in.
For instance, Tegan brought out an electric guitar for the relatively raucous Northside off 2009’s Sainthood. That was followed by an acoustic guitar for a string of songs from 2007’s sadder, slower album The Con.
The transition wasn't always flawless — the loud, overexcited crowd prolonged the start of the stark Dark Come Soon. Still, it was a good reminder of the group’s versatility and helped switch up the sound a little during their roughly 90-minute set.
There was also some discussion of the election, mainly toward the start of their set because the group said they didn't want to bring the mood down later.
“There are going to be a lot of people in the coming months who are going to try and pull things back for a lot of people,” Sara said.
Even then, the group’s message was largely optimistic Tuesday, championing those different from the status quo and willing to stand up for the disenfranchised. They also had kinder words to say about Florida than much of the country right now, talking about visiting on summer vacation when they were younger and how they love playing the state because “Floridians are unhinged.”
There's a lot of frustration and anger right now in our country, which can't be discounted. But there’s also value in Tegan and Sara offering a safe space for people to enjoy themselves — particularly their sizable LGBT audience.
During some election-related banter, the group pivoted back to their music, introducing one song as about being heartbroken, something everyone can relate to. In this deeply divisive time for our country, it's helpful to locate common ground wherever possible, even in the form of a lovelorn pop song.