Venue: The Roundhouse, Camden.
Support: Hesta Prynn
Reviewer: Phil W
It was a hot evening in Camden Town, the sun still high on the early evening streets and the throng of colourful bohemians and the steam of street food pouring from vendors along the canal. It had been hot on the tube too, the air stifling, heavy and thick.
From the entrance opposite Belmont, right down to the old horse hospital, a long queue of predominantly teenage lesbians had formed, huddled against the walls of the old Victorian viaduct. A girl at the end of the queue was handing out flyers and I asked her if this was the queue for Tegan & Sara. “Yes,” she replied, “you’ve got a bit of a wait.”
The Roundhouse is a truly unique venue; built in 1847 as a railway roundhouse with turntable, it has been used as an arts venue since the 60’s. The feeling is very different from the old music halls that litter the London area though are no less spectacular.
I was up on the front row, elbows leaning on the steel railings to the right of the stage. Support act Hesta Prynn, lead singer from New York band Northern State, was here on a solo outing backed by a guitarist/bassist/fiddler with a looping Macbook and a drummer. The music was deeply pop-infused dominated by heavy drum and bass and Hesta strutted her stuff with aspirations of pop diva stardom that’s currently so vogue. But she won me over by the fourth song and I was almost tempted to buy her EP.
In 2008 I saw Tegan & Sara at the Shepherds Bush Empire. I’d only recently discovered them, via Kaki King who’d played guitar on one of their songs on their superb album The Con released that same year. At the time I remember thinking it was one of the best gigs I’d seen that year but two years later I’d been trying to remember exactly why. This question was quickly answered in what turned out to be a truly magical gig. These twin sisters are just so good! It’s in the simple, well written pop, the touching lyrical insights into life and love and their off key but emotionally grounded delivery. It’s the combination of Tegan’s straight forward punk songs and Sara’s quirky pop musings. Sara’s best moment is at the start of the set with an acoustic rendition of I Just Want Back In Your Head, Tegan’s best moment is in the set closer, the epic Nineteen, and everything inbetween was pure electricity. Their songs come alive on stage as the likable Canadian twins work the audience with a smile and a nod, oozing sincerity, and introducing songs with conversational back stories. The final encore and also the oldest song in the set, Tegan’s brilliant country infused Living Room proved to be the final highlight of another brilliant show. It was over all too soon.
Outside, the air was still warm in the night-time streets of Camden Town as revellers moved in and out of The Stables and across the canal. Queues of teenage lesbians heading for the tube.