Tegan and Sara: Sisters just wanna have fun

Review: The Canadian duo stepped out with new electronic pop tunes at a sold-out First Avenue show.

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On paper, it sounds like two musical worlds colliding. However, Tegan and Sara’s galactic leap from a mostly acoustic, soul-baring indie folk duo to electronic pop singers enjoyed a soft, warm landing at sold-out First Avenue on Wednesday night.

Cult-adored Canadian twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin — whose recent No. 3 showing on Billboard proved they aren’t so cultish anymore — jumped headlong into new territory by recruiting producers from Pink’s and Ke$ha’s camp to add dance beats and sleeker vocals on their new album, “Heartthrob.” Some fans’ cries of “sell out” were offset locally by their decision to play First Avenue again instead of theaters or bigger venues they can now easily fill.

The Quins, age 33, certainly aren’t the first hip singer-songwriters to add layers of synthesizers and electronic dance beats to their once-raw sound, but they’re in rare company for doing so successfully. Sufjan Stevens and Cat Power, for instance, had two of the more memorably discombobulated local concerts recently trying to pull off just such a transition.

Wednesday’s nearly two-hour performance did not back away from Tegan and Sara’s glossier and bubblier new songs. In fact, the sisters played almost every track off of “Heartthrob.” First, they gave the 1,400 fans a big hello kiss in the form of their meaner 2004 hit, “Walking With a Ghost,” delivered as the night’s second number. From there, they went straight into some of the poppiest new tunes. “I Was a Fool” had a Coldplay-ish airiness to it, and “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend” was full-on Cyndi Lauper girlie fun.

Neither Quin has Lauper-level vocal power, however. They struggled to hit the right notes in that one and in the similarly ’80s-flavored “Goodbye, Goodbye.” But hey, most of the current pop stars they fashioned the new record after would have used Auto-Tune or recorded backing vocals in a live situation.

“We’re gonna play a few old songs, because you guys have been so great,” Sara said after a string of the new tunes, as if they had been a burden. The crowd remained receptive the whole time.

A few tunes from the duo’s late-00s albums, including “Arrow” and “The Con,” provided a rockier edge in the middle of the set.

The duo’s jilted-love undertones came to the surface between songs when Sara recounted flying into the Twin Cities for a show and finding the airline broke her guitar. “And that’s not the worst part,” she said, adding an “awww”-inducing story about a lover simultaneously breaking her heart on the same trip.

No wonder the Quins want to have a little fun. They did with gusto at show’s end with the pre-encore finale “Closer,” which proved they didn’t really have a choice playing First Avenue instead of a theater. That dance floor was a must.

 

See the full set list at startribune.com/artcetera.

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 Twitter: @ChrisRstrib

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  • Tegan and Sara, who have left the underground musically and professionally, performed at First Avenue on Wednesday. See more photos from the show at www.startribune.com/galleries.

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