Canadian twin sisters Tegan and Sara have never been ones to shy away from trying new things and taking creative risks. Over the course of their 21-year career, their music has run the gamut from earnest acoustic ballads to upbeat, danceable electropop. Now, the duo has ventured into memoir writing with a new book, High School. The collection of coming-of-age vignettes, which has already become a New York Times bestseller, hit shelves last month—just a few days prior to their ninth studio album, “Hey, I’m Just Like You”, a collection of songs penned during their teen years.
This double dose of releases meant that the two had a rare opportunity to showcase much more than their exceptional song-craft and impeccable harmonies when they hit the stage at The Wilbur on Friday night. Instead, the evening was a multimedia love letter to growing up that turned the historic theater into a cozy living room through a combination of book readings, old home videos, stripped-down performances, and the twins’ signature comedic banter.
Adding to the warm atmosphere was a strict no-phones policy, which—somewhat surprisingly—the mostly millennial crowd obeyed for the duration of the show. “We’re trying to cultivate an intimate ‘90s vibe,” Sara explained cheekily. It was also an environment of inclusivity: an on-screen projection prior to the concert reminded attendees of a zero-tolerance violence and discrimination policy, and one dollar from each ticket sold went to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, the twins’ charitable organization for LGBTQ women and girls.
While many audience members had undoubtedly seen the indie icons live before, the format was a first for the band. The sisters traded off on reading excerpts from “High School” aloud that explored everything from LSD experimentation and sexual discovery to their first taste of success as the winners of a local battle of the bands. The stories set the tone for each bare-bones performance and wove seamlessly through the 13-song set, which spanned the entirety of their discography. Even longtime fan favorites like “Back in Your Head,” “Closer,” and “Boyfriend” took on a more raw and emotional tenor when pared back to a single guitar or piano.
Despite the evening’s serious themes and mellow ambiance, there was plenty of levity and laughter as well. VHS clips interspersed throughout the show provided a humorous glimpse of the singers as pierced, awkward, and relatable teenagers who made up songs about skipping school and professed their admiration for Kurt Cobain while sitting in front of a Courtney Love poster. At another point, Tegan kept bursting into giggles as she attempted to read a book chapter about an amusing trip to the local swimming pool, further buoyed by the audience’s laughter.
As the show drew to a close and the audience was brought to its feet, the sisters explained that going back in time to revisit their formative years for these projects wasn’t actually that cringe-worthy or embarrassing—it was enlightening.
“Be kinder, softer, and more compassionate to your younger selves,” Tegan encouraged before the pair launched into a singalong rendition of “Where Does the Good Go” from 2004’s “So Jealous”. “Because rejecting your younger self is rejecting yourself now.”
Make sure to catch Tegan and Sara on tour this Fall.