Tegan & Sara: Shepherds Bush Empire, 13th November '09

It’s half six in the evening on a fateful, drab Friday night as damp as Louis Walsh’s sinking optimism at a lonely hearts club and queues spew at every possible angle from the jarred mouth of the Empire. Jackie McKeown of inconsequential Scot lo-fi trowels 1990s once stated that it’s their cult status that keeps them alive and whilst they may have dropped off the radar into further obscurity, tonight sparks the starting gun of a whistle-stop UK tour for ‘queer’ siblings and darling queens of the LGBT musical corner, Tegan and Sara. As streams of fresh-faced bi-curious pilgrims stream past the condescendingly chauvinistic tendencies of the neighbouring Walkabout, backpacks in tow, itching to tack onto the end of the now-cobra like hoard snaking past the stage door, a bizarre, somewhat unnerving ambience settles in. Gazing out over the enamoured congregation in the belly of the venue, it’s at least 89% female. Heterosexual males, perhaps the predominant gig-goers (and prime detractors) are most certainly merely subordinate accessories to a veneration not seen since The Beatles. And Twilight.

Scuffling on to Mama Cass’ Dream a Little Dream Of Me, a saccharine-sweet calm erupts into a harrowing shower of shrieks bellowed as from above as below, before the duo launch into the vocal swoons of The Con and pandemonium ensues. And continues. Until the final chord’s struck. Dotted throughout in its entirety is latest record, Sainthood, lacing an absolutely vast setlist to varying effect; the glitchy 80s-tinged Someday blows holes in beating hearts whilst the frantic urgency of Northshore devastates to desperate effect in the rapturous wake of the obsessed. The wily wines of The Cure are splendiferous in the hallowed setting of the Empire and the futuristic funk of Alligator is far more enticing than the kangaroo curries rustled up next door. Elsewhere however, the emo hooks and bland thrills of Hell translate to little more than an off-cut of a One Tree Hill soundtrack and the static road to nowhere that is Red Belt bores. Tonight, Tegan is unquestionably the ringleader, grabbing the reins on sumptuous set-closer Call It Off in the most gut-wrenching moment of a part-sublime, part-monotonous Friday the 13th. However, feigning nerves and translating it into hideously awkward not-so-sweet nothings at every possible opportunity, any endearing allure evaporates as jokes reverting to the vague sexual innuendo that is Shepherds Bush fly, of course only permitted from the mouths of Sapphic lovers, before going on to discuss excremental patterns whilst on tour. And the saccharine sheen vanishes. Whilst their extensive back catalogue is well and truly ignited live, The Ocean washes wondrously over the front few rows and Living Room explodes into a kaleidoscopic creation composed of slippery sliding guitars and chimerical stomps, the numbers still don’t quite compute with Tegan and Sara, as much as 2,000 devoted, backpacking pilgrims may have hoped they might whilst sat in school waiting for the final bells to ring just hours ago.