Noise Pop Show Review: Metric at The Masonic, 2/23/2016

by Becka Robbins on March 9, 2016

Metric

Metric

It’s a little jarring when your relationship with a band isn’t reflected by the show you see them put on. I’ve had this happen before; when I saw Marina and the Diamonds the first time, I was surprised to see a woman playing an intimate set at a piano. I was confused; where was the pop dance sarcastic and snarky dance diva I’d fallen for? I learned to love this other aspect of her, however, because being a fan means being open to compromise and loving new angles on bands you like. Metric has flirted with so many genres and sounds over their long career that I didn’t know what to expect from their show. I had no doubt that they would deliver a hell of a performance, and looked forward to watching them put their raw emotion and technical versatility on display.

Emily Haines of Metric

Emily Haines of Metric

And they totally did! Lead singer Emily Haines has a dry voice, perfect for rock, reminiscent of that of Liz Phair. One of my favorite things about Metric is how beautifully it contrasts with the synth-heavy, techno-influenced instrumentalization behind her, and how many of her songs explore the angst of being human. It’s a delicious contrast, fitting for a band that broke out around the beginning of the first dot bomb. The songs are both catchy and complicated, and the band wanders through synthpop and new wave and hard rock and industrial sounds. 

Joshua Winstead of Metric

Joshua Winstead of Metric

Emily has a dynamic, charismatic stage presence, and she loves connecting with the audience, while compelling us to move with her and hitting every note she sings. Everything about the show was absolutely, technically on point. She was moving around the stage, from her keyboard to the front of the stage, to her bandmates, connecting in turn with I loved the first part of the show, when the sound was more nuanced, and the lighting was more subtle – some spotlights, some colored gels, and I felt drawn into what seemed to be a great rock concert. They lost me, though, over the course of the show, as they built up to a very different kind of performance.  The band brought a bunch of the VIP ticket holders on stage and led them and the audience in a singalong for “Dreams So Real,” which just felt awkwardly ironic, given that the richest people were on stage leading all of us in a song about giving up. The music got progressively louder over the course of the evening, and they stopped breaking between songs, so it was hard to tell when one started or ended. The volume was ramped way, way up, over the course of the evening to where it was still loud from the lobby of the venue. 

James Shaw and Emily Haines

James Shaw and Emily Haines

I am a fan who relates to each song as a separate emotional experience, and have always seen their songwriting abilities as one of their core strengths. They swung hard in their performance towards the dance-pop aspect of their sound, adding reverb to the vocals and using more elaborate lighting effects. The result seemed to me like a muddy wall of sound, with a lot of feeling and ambiance, lots of energy, incomprehensible vocals, and high energy at the expense of sonic quality. Maybe if I’d been more drunk, high, or slightly more deaf, I could have ridden this wave with gusto and enthusiasm. As it was, I left at the end feeling a disconnect between their high-octane overwhelming performative sound, and the more nuanced sound of their songs I’ve come to know over the years.

Emily Haines

Emily Haines

Their choice of direction confused me, and I have questions for Metric around this. Did the venue just have the wrong acoustics for the show they designed? Was the band trying to reference old rave culture? Were there instructions to get blitzed, or to bring industrial strength earplugs, that I missed? Were they performing obscure, arty material that downplayed the lyrics and aimed to meld sound together? Did they work with a whole different production team? Am I just old and missing something? Has this band always been more of a big-sound dance act than I realized? Someone please tell me what they were going for here. The rest of the audience seemed to be swept away by the energy, but somehow, by the end, I felt completely left behind by the wave of enthusiasm.

Setlist:

  1. IOU
  2. Help I’m Alive
  3. Youth Without Youth
  4. Twilight Galaxy
  5. Cascades
  6. Hustle Rose
  7. Too Bad, So Sad
  8. Artificial Nocturne
  9. Dreams So Real
  10. Blind Valentine / Sick Muse
  11. Collect Call
  12. Other Side
  13. Black Sheep
  14. Synthetica
  15. Combat Baby
  16. Gold Guns Girls
  17. The Shade

Encore:

  1. Empty
  2. Celebrate
  3. Gimme Sympathy
  4. Breathing Underwater

Additional photos from the show below. All photos by Becka Robbins.

 

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