Concert review: Metric more than measures up at the Pageant, Tuesday, October 2
Toronto’s Metric is a rare band that can bring a lot of different kinds of music fans together — I often marvel at the variety of pro-Metric people just in my own circle of friends.
Beginning its show at the Pageant with a dramatic synth intro, Metric ratcheted up the anticipation levels in the buzzing, nearly sold-out crowd. As singer Emily Haines would sing later, they could “feel it in their bones.”
Upon entering the stage, the Juno award-winning quartet launched into “Artificial Nocturne,” also the first song off the excellent new album “Synthetica.” It was a slow burn that eventually kicked into a big-time rocker, a perfect way to bring the crowd into the groove. Metric would prove to keep the crowd extremely engaged throughout its lengthy set.
Next, the band rocked its biggest new hit “Youth Without Youth” that sent the pit into the stratosphere. With lyrics like, “We played Rubber Soul with a razor blade behind the church,” the song epitomizes Hains’ style of recognizing rock history while pushing the rock envelope into new directions. It’s a dense track with wailing guitars, sinister vocals and explosive drums and bass lines — and the crowd ate it up.
Though the show wasn’t a sellout, it was clear the St. Louis audience relished this rare visit from Metric, which first got going way back in 1998. That was a time when the phrase “Canadian rock” brought to mind images of Rush and Loverboy, not Arcade Fire and fellow Pageant vet Feist. Longtime local Metric fans only had brief Lilith Fair appearances and a show at the old Creepy Crawl to hold onto until this show, and it was clear that they were not going to miss a song on this night.
On “Speed the Collapse,” also new, the band took the crowd on a journey, showing its progressive side. “Dreams So Real” featured yet another side of the band that Kristeen Young fans would appreciate. On it, Haines performed spoken-word style vocals while working some avant garde magic on her synthesizer setup. It seemed that the show was going to be a live performance of the whole new album, which would have been fine by most in the crowd.
The band finally dipped into its respectable catalog with “Empty,” off its second album, 2005′s “Live It Out.” What started out as a simple ballad suddenly transformed mid-song into an epic, distorted-guitar rocker that can stand up with the best of Radiohead’s live output. The lyric, “Shake your head, it’s empty,” was sung for only the one chorus, but it was surely stuck in the minds of many patrons the next day.
All the while, Haines shook her thing on stage, toying with the crowd — much of which I would venture to say was made up of music nerds/Haines admirers who had their own fantasies about getting some alone time with the singer.
Speaking of Fantasies, Metric pleased the crowd immensely when it ran off several songs off their award-winning 2009 album, “Fantasies.” “Help I’m Alive” and “Stadium Love” brought the love to St. Louis that the band neglected to fully bring when that landmark album first came out. For my money, though, “Sick Muse” was the highlight of the night with its dance-inducing drumbeat, devastatingly catchy electric guitar line and soaring harmonies and chorus.
Visually, the stage setup was much like the band’s performance — sleek, stylish and executed with pinpoint precision. Colorful lines set up against amplifier-like boxes framed the band and a laser light occasionally flooded the venue to great effect.
Musically, the players executed the well-crafted songs beautifully. James Shaw shined on guitar, Josh Winstead tore it up on bass and Joules Scott-Key made sure his driving beats would be replaying in patrons’ minds for weeks to come.
The only gripe I had was uneven volume levels throughout the night. I thought Haines’ mic should have been cranked while the backing vocalists’ mics should have been turned down much of the time. Also, the band’s decision to play “Gimme Sympathy” as a night-ending acoustic sing-along was ill-advised. It was probably just my personal desire to hear this song live in all of its electric glory, but hearing it a cappella felt a little forced as Haines shared the moment with the crowd.