Tegan and Sara

Main Stage, Guelph ON, July 25

Tegan and SaraMain Stage, Guelph ON, July 25
Photo: Matthew Ritchie
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Perhaps Hillside's most pop-centric performance of the entire weekend, Friday night festival headliners Tegan and Sara wowed the sizable (albeit smaller than they're used to) crowd that encircled the main stage with an array of hits from their 2012 LP, Heartthrob, as well as a selection of deeper cuts from their back catalogue.

Coming out to the swelling sounds of some sequenced synthesizers, the sisters Quin got the young audience bouncing on the balls of their feet early on with professional renditions of "Goodbye, Goodbye," "I Couldn't Be Your Friend" and piano-laden pop hit "Back in Your Head." Although the duo's buff backing band and more modern setup (which featured a pair of risers and mini-keyboards set centre stage) initially grabbed attendees' attentions, it was the latter of the group's first three songs and its dual guitar inclusion that really got fans excited, as it signalled a switch from the band's more recent material to the rock-based tracks of their past.

Switching interchangeably between a pair of Gibson parlors and hulking electrics throughout the set, the fine-tuned pop troupe continued to rail off old and new classics like "The Con," "Walking With a Ghost" and crowd favourite "I Was a Fool," breaking ocassionally to crack jokes with the conservation area's campers about refusing to pitch a tent (the band were spending the night at Toronto's Sheraton Hotel instead) and memories of dropping acid in the outback.

Surpsingly, it was the outfit's more club-heavy catalogue that got the crowd really clapping throughout the performance's final half, with tracks like Sainthood single "Alligator" and darkwave scorcher "Shock to Your System" transforming the festival grounds into a dance floor.

Appearing slightly embarassed, Tegan discovered a young fan holding a poster plastered with the lyrics to the duo's 1999 single "Superstar" at the front of the stage. At the audience's insistence, she quickly read through her words to appease all their diehard fans — of which, judging by the smiles, there appeared to be many — before giving a few of the older fogies in the back something to feel good about by performing a cover of Pete Townshend's solo standout "Let My Love Open the Door," complete with shimmering synthesizers and dubby bass lines.

Saving perhaps the best for last, crowd members surged towards the stage as the opening strains of set finale "Closer" filled the country air. Although the band's Friday night slot was a bit of a strange choice, considering the group has opened for more mainstream acts like Lady Gaga in recent months, the duo promised that although this was their first-ever performance at Hillside, it certainly wouldn't be their last.

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