Metric – [Live]

Friday, 19 June 2009

Some of the things that made the Canadian indie-rock outfit, Metric, concert so dazzling were Emily Haines’ dreamy vocals and her dramatic tambourine usage, a long jam session complete with a few guitar solos from Jimmy Shaw, clap/sing-a-longs from the sold-out crowd and lots of dancing. They even had the crowd pulling out their lighters for the last song. Classic. I love concerts like these. Energetic, fun-loving, smooth and breezy. But Metric’s performance still had that indefinable edge that calls for worthy praise.

Metric has a long history behind them with where they had started and where they are now. Just looking at singer/synthesizer/guitarist, Emily Haines, is little complex. She was born in India, raised in Canada, lived in Brooklyn, recorded music in London and has collaborated with hHead, Broken Social Scene, Stars, The Stills and KC Accidental to name a few.

While she was living in New York with Jimmy Shaw (co-Broken Social member), UK producer, Steven Hague (Erasure, New Order, Pet Shop Boys) caught notice of them to create their first songs as Metric. They went on to create albums Static Anonymity (2001), Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? (2003), Live It Out (2005), Grow Up and Blow Away (recorded in 2001; released in 2007) before their recent album release of Fantasies (April 2009). Most of the setlist consisted of Fantasies with a few older tunes mixed in.

Metric started out the evening with “Twilight Galaxy” which is one of the stronger tunes on the new album. Emily’s voice is a little raspy with a sexy crisp aspect to it. Heavy on the synth, she was banged her head along like it was the first time she heard herself.

Next song was “Help I’m Alive,” which has a strong Interpol-sounding guitar looping chorus with a cheerful steady tambourine throughout the song. During the lyrics of “Beating like a hammer…beating like a hammer..” Emily made the tambourine an extension of her arm and reached out toward the crowd in a very dramatic crescendo. I never saw a tambourine look so cool.

The backdrop melody of “Satellite Mind” has an 80s synth dark-wave sound with guitar layers added to a build up tension that flows into quite a catchy chorus. The green lighting during this song gave a perfect ambience to Metric’s performance.

She played “Handshakes” next, which was off of their Live it Out album and it makes sense why Metric opened up for The Rolling Stones on their last tour; she has a classic rock soul that she channels herself into quite comfortably. Her voice quivered to a dramatic effect and her mannerisms were endearing and real. Her head-banging skills while playing the synth were pretty impressive and eye catching. She had this knee-popping trot dance that looked like she stole it from Mr. Jagger himself.  I was too excited to see this song live because before the show I was obsessing on the live version at Metropolis posted on YouTube (look it up!). During the end of the song she repeatedly shouted “Buy this car to drive to work—drive to work to pay for this car” followed by psychedelic nonsensical ramblings. Modernized of course, but sounded like she could have sung it at Woodstock.

“Gold Guns Girls” was next and started off with that same Interpol-sounding guitar loop that I crave. Her voice really shines in this tune as her feminine vocals are cripplingly beautiful, not forced. Jimmy Shaw busted out a guitar solo during this time and the crowd all stood on their tippy toes to see closer.

After five songs, Emily finally starts a conversation with the crowd. “How are you doing Chicago? Did you miss us? We missed you.” She went on to reminisce about her first gig in Chicago at Empty Bottle. “Such a trip,” she said.

“Gimme Sympathy” is the single off of the new album and was played next. She took off her jacket as by then, she was looking a little sweaty. But even though her straggly blonde hair was tangled and she had a blushed face—she still looked alluring and astounding. So jealous. This song is the most recognizable from the masses which turned quickly into a sing/clap-a-long and made everyone feel happy inside

 “Sick Muse” was notable as she danced, twirled and rocked around the stage. Her cordless mic came in handy as she popped out her shoulders and legs to the beat.

“Empty” had a softer and more somber sound in the beginning with a loud electric pulsating ambience that reminded me of something off of NIN’s Ghosts. The song drastically changed when a built-up progression from drummer, Joules Scott-Key, broke the quiet noise. Each time Emily would sing “Shake your head, it's empty,” she paused to literally shake her head side to side, rocking out to the rest of her band’s talents. This song eventually turned into a jam session that went on for a good five minutes between Shaw’s guitar solos and Emily’s whispering and mumbling. The tempo slowed down to almost nothing before Emily exclaimed “Where was I?” like she had gone to another place and had forgotten. The crowd was exuberant over this and cheered for more. But the transition was flawless right into “Front Row,” which is another song with Emily’s soft clear voice coupled with a hard guitar looping, jamming drums and concise bass.

“Dead Disco” was an electro-rock favorite of the night as everyone danced. Again, they brought the volume down and right on cue, the crowd softly clapped as if it was planned out. She swung it back up to full throttle and with all of the fans’ hands in the air; it was cool to see from the balcony perspective.

Emily then took a break from it all to talk to us. “Nice to meet you,” she said. Then she started talking about the national anthem and how she is half Canadian and half American. It was sort of hard to hear every word since everyone would cheer after everything she said. But, she laid on her stomach and kicked up her feet like a teenage girl reading magazines on her bed. She became patriotic all of a sudden, got down on one knee, looked up towards the sky and then started on “Stadium Love,” which was energetic and flawlessly performed.

They exited the stage, and without hesitation, the crowd chanted “Metric” repeatedly until they returned for the encore. “Monster Hospital” off of Live It Out, started out with an electric fax-machine sound and the red lighting was dramatically perfect for the song.

Then another mini-speech was initiated by Emily. “This is my favorite part of the night right here. We have so much in common…sometimes it scares me to look at you in the eye…I see you. We are having a conversation…” She then talked about how Kim Gordon (of Sonic Youth) is her hero because “She doesn’t want me to be like Kim Gordon. She wants me to be Emily Haines.” Deep. I like it.

Last song was “Live It Out,” and all of the lighters and cell phones in the house popped out. The song reminded me a lot like the Beatles’ “Blackbird” because of the quiet simplicity. Metric took the front stage together to say good-bye. Emily all of a sudden looked very modest and shy from the cheering crowd, like she just had won the 3rd grade spelling bee. Very genuine.

I know it may seem like I was obsessing over Emily more than the band as a collective whole, but the show really was mostly centered on her exuberant energy. Don’t get me wrong, without her band mates, she would not be as striking. But her stage presence and hypnotizing vocals smothered every person at the show. It was hard to not notice and hard not to keep your eyes off of her. Throughout the whole show, Emily was dancing. She never really stopped. Even when she had her in-between moments; she was literally rolling around the stage floor.

Touring with Smile Smile and Sebastian Grainger, Chicago definitely had nothing but “Stadium Love” for Metric’s entertaining performance Sunday. Check out Fantasies as it may be one of the top albums of 2009. It was well worth the wait.


“Help I’m Alive (Acoustic)” – Metric – [mp3]

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