Metric inspires audience with exuberant performance

The band Metric will perform at the Tower Theater on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. Their CD "Synthetica" is out now.
The band Metric will perform at the Tower Theater on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. Their CD "Synthetica" is out now.
Posted: September 25, 2012

"Have I ever really helped anybody but myself / To believe in the power of songs?" Emily Haines sang in "Dreams So Real" during Metric's performance at the Tower Theater on Saturday night. Such self-doubt and existential questioning are typical of the Canadian quartet's songs, whether asking "Is this my life?" in "Breathing Underwater" or pleading, "Fate don't fail me now" in "Artificial Nocturne."

But those sentiments are at odds with the confidence and exuberance of Metric's music and stage presence. With James Shaw's buzzing guitar riffs, Haines' perky synthesizer lines, and her irrepressible energy, the show was a New Wave dance party, something out of the early MTV era but somehow without any retro silliness.

The 95-minute set began by drawing mostly from this year's CD Synthetica, heavy on electro-pop tunes, like the glam-rock stomp of "Youth Without Youth" and the propulsive thump of "Speed the Collapse." Haines' vocals often were processed with echo effects, loops, and other electronic manipulations.

As the show continued, the songs became more guitar-centric and focused on 2009's Fantasies and other earlier work. Shaw, who like Haines sometimes joins Montreal collective Broken Social Scene, reeled off casual but rousing riffs to lead "Sick Muse" and "Gold Gun Girls," and he interjected the occasional note-bending guitar solo, recalling Lindsey Buckingham at his most frenetic in tunes such as "Empty."

But Haines was the constant focal point, whether bouncing in front of her synthesizers - wisps of her blond hair blowing, making her look like Blondie's Debbie Harry - or pogoing with hands raised during the punky "Monster Hospital" (think X-Ray Spex' Poly Styrene) or dancing happily beneath the neon and strobe lights during the gulping, sassy "Dead Disco" (like Altered Images' Clare Grogan).

Haines barely stopped moving until well into the encore, when the band, joined by openers Half Moon Run, covered the Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes" (sadly, during "The Wanderlust," Lou Reed did not arrive to reprise his cameo from Synthetica) and concluded with an acoustic version of its Stones/Beatles mash note "Gimme Sympathy." Haines' infectious energy had the Tower audience members on their feet throughout the night, helping them believe in the power of Metric's songs.

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