Friday, June 12, 2009

metric @ the ogden theatre

Emily Haines is a babe. I knew this already. I also knew that Metric is one of the biggest bands on the indie scene at the moment, and almost certainly one of the most energetic. Yet somehow knowledge of these things wasn't enough to prepare me for what may possibly be the best rock show I have ever been to. I grant you that I'm still quite young and have not been to very many, but nonetheless these are words I don't throw around lightly. Rarely have I seen a band so in tune with what its audience wants, and even more infrequently have I seen one as able to deliver on that promise.

If anything, Haines understands that a concert isn't just showing up, playing your songs, putting in your 90 minutes, and moving on to the next town. A concert means performing. It means giving the crowd something they can't get just by sitting at home and spinning an album. It's this sort of conviction that can even make a band's decidedly less stunning tracks into defining moments when placed in a live setting. For instance, since March I've been of the opinion that "Stadium Love" is easily the weakest moment on their latest long-player Fantasies. You'd never know it if you just showed up to the concert. Such energy they packed into its performance, and such undiluted enthusiasm, that it just came across as one more awesome song in a set that felt jam-packed with these sorts of moments.

Predictably, the setlist was skewed heavily in favor of Fantasies ("Collect Call" and "Blindness" were the only two left out), with only a light spattering of earlier material, but seeing them perform the way they did made it impossible to argue with any of their choices. Alongside refreshingly adrenaline-laced renditions of fan favorites "Help I'm Alive" and "Gold Guns Girls," they also found room for a few legitimate surprises. Slow-burner "Twilight Galaxy" may seem at first an unorthodox way to kickstart the evening, but the band's singular take on it -- which included both a dissonant, theremin-driven intro and an ear-crushingly loud synth freakout ending (yes, this is still "Twilight Galaxy" I'm talking about) -- immediately assuaged any fears I may have had that Haines & co. didn't know exactly what they were doing. They did, and how. Still, despite the awesomeness inherent in their newer stuff, the absolute high point of the evening was Live It Out opener "Empty." Sure, Haines may sing lyrics like We couldn't see what was coming, but by now we're all aware of what happens in the song. Knowingly, the band took this and ran with it: the amped-up midsection alone got stretched out to something like seven or eight minutes, with Haines bouncing around the stage and riling up the crowd in a way that felt both effortless and genuine.

At the risk of making a "converting to Metric" joke, I'll just say this: I went to the show a fan, but not a diehard. If ever there was an opportunity for me to make the leap, I experienced it. In the end, I think the beautiful and charismatic frontwoman said it best in her intro to "Gimme Sympathy": "Who'd you rather be? The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? It's a tough question. So we decided we wanted to be a Canadian cross between the two." They can do it, too. Give them time. Their show crackles with passion, excitement, and exuberance. In the rare moments I was able to take my eyes off the stage to look at the crowd, I became intimately aware that there was likely not a soul in the room who would've rather been anywhere else. That's how good these guys are. Emily Haines isn't just a babe. Emily Haines is a friggin' rock star.

I of course had nothing to do with its existence, but an inevitable, completely unauthorized opportunity to live vicariously exists here.

(Oh by the way, my name's Chris. Nice to meet you!)

mp3: "Empty" by Metric
mp3: "Gold Guns Girls" by Metric

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