Metric: July 27, 2013 in Chicago
Photo credit: Jordan Young
How many superlatives can a review contain before it begins to sound sycophantic? Well, strap in, because the reliably excellent Metric performed at Chicago’s House of Blues recently as part of the Red Bull Sound Select concert series, and they put on yet another fabulous show.
Opening for Metric were Chicago natives My Gold Mask, which was a stroke of genius—tonally and aesthetically, it was a perfect fit. The goth-pop trio of Gretta Rochelle (lead vocals, tambourine, drums), Jack Armondo (guitar, backing vocals) and James Andrew (drums) opened strong with a full, polished sound that was both dark and vibrant. It’s difficult to describe their music so that it doesn’t sound pretentious or gimmicky, but it is neither. It’s artsy but danceable, eerie but enthusiastic. Rochelle even managed to make the tambourine look rock ‘n’ roll, alternately striking both drums and tambourine with a drumstick (and driving fury). My Gold Mask absolutely deserves the media attention they’ve been receiving lately—they’re poised to explode.
If My Gold Mask was great (and they were), then Metric was phenomenal. The Canadian quartet, composed of Emily Haines (lead vocals, keyboard, synthesizers, tambourine, guitar), James Shaw (guitar, backing vocals), Joshua Winstead (bass, backing vocals) and Joules Scott-Key (drums, percussion) has a reputation for the quality of their live shows, and this one continued to uphold that high standard. Over the course of an hour and a half, the band performed a substantial set of 10 songs—primarily culled from their most recent album, 2012’s Synthetica—and a two-song encore. By the end of their first number, “Artificial Nocturne,” frontwoman Haines was visibly sweating, but the pace did not abate. While the group obviously worked well together as a cohesive unit, it was the electric Haines to whom all eyes were drawn. Without missing a note, she strutted and shimmied and did funny little pony-kicks across the stage. Even when surrounded by multiple keyboards, she couldn’t stand still, hopping and jerking her knees upward, cocking her head and pulling faces. Taken out of context, Haines’ moves should earn her a grant from the Ministry of Silly Walks, but onstage they read as her own distinctive brand of rock-star swagger.
Selecting highlights from the night is challenging, given the consistently solid performance, but there were some key moments. The intro to the slower-paced “Dreams So Real” featured a tight spotlight on Haines’ face, highlighting her pensive expressions that seemed to suggest she was actually considering the meaning and importance of the words she sang. On the other end of the spectrum, the driving, insistent “Help I’m Alive” (from 2009 album Fantasies) was given full-on stadium-rock treatment with flashing neon lights to accompany Haines’ dance moves. “Synthetica” included a brief but skillful guitar solo from Shaw that left the audience wanting more (it would have been nice to showcase the virtuosity of Shaw, Winstead and Scott-Key a bit more).
A few elements—including the lack of focus on the three male band members—missed the mark. Multiple songs were dubiously “enhanced” with the addition of echoed vocals—not a terrible choice, but not an improvement, either. A highly stylized rendition of “Empty” (from 2005 album Live It Out) also proved a bit of a conundrum: While the shrieky vocals punctuating the word empty were unnecessary and a lengthy instrumental interlude started to drag, Haines’ unexpected mid-song tambourine explosion was riveting, as was her direct-to-the-crowd performance. She paced across the edge of the stage, dropping to one knee and imploring listeners, “What are you afraid of?!”
The show concluded with a two-song encore comprised of “Gold Guns Girls” and an acoustic version of “Gimme Sympathy,” which was an odd but effective choice. After such a thoroughly high-energy evening, it was rather surprising that the band would choose to end with a downtempo number, but it worked. Haines took a moment to say hello to the crowd—and goodbye, she cheekily pointed out—and, with Shaw on acoustic guitar, proceeded to lead her bandmates and the audience in a singalong. It felt more than a little like the foursome were the coolest camp counselors ever, trying to get their rowdy charges to settle down for the night. The crowd fully cooperated—everyone seemed delighted with their evening at Camp Metric.
Check out our exclusive video interview with Metric before they took the stage.
Catch Metric on tour:
8/1/13 Miami Beach, FL @ The Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater
8/2/13 North Bay, ON, Canada @ North Bay Summer in the Park
8/17/13 Quebec, QC, Canada @ Expo Quebec @ ExpoCite
Catch Metric on tour with Paramore this fall:
10/15/13 Seattle, WA @ Key Arena
10/18/13 San Jose, CA @ HP Pavilion
10/19/13 Anaheim, CA @ Honda Center
10/22/13 Fresno, CA @ Save Mart Center
10/23/13 San Diego, CA @ Viejas Arena
10/26/13 Grand Prairie, TX @ Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
10/27/13 Houston, TX @ Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
10/29/13 Independence, MO @ Independence Events Center
10/30/13 St. Louis, MO @ Fabulous Fox Theater
11/1/13 Austin, TX @ Austin360 Amphitheater
11/4/13 Sunrise, FL @ BB&T Center
11/5/13 Orlando, FL @ UCF Convocation Center
11/8/13 Camden, NJ @ Susquehanna Bank Center
11/9/13 Fairfax, VA @ Patriot Center
11/11/13 Bethlehem, PA @ Sands Bethlehem Event Center
11/13/13 New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden
11/15/13 Worcester, MA @ DCU Center
11/17/13 Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun Arena
11/21/13 Auburn Hills, MI @ The Palace of Auburn Hills
11/23/13 St. Paul, MN @ Roy Wilkins Auditorium
11/24/13 Chicago, IL @ UIC Pavilion
11/26/13 Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena
11/27/13 Duluth, GA @ The Arena at Gwinnett Center