Live Music + Gig Reviews

Emily Haines @ Bush Hall, London

2 June 2007

One thing Metric never do is break your heart. Make you want to dance like a loon, sure. Make you want to fuck a lamppost, why not. Turn you into a nihilistic ice maiden with a desire to bring down the government, you bet your sweet little butt-cheeks. But make you stop, ponder and shed a little tear? You’re barking up the wrong band.

But cast loose from the new-wave sweaty disco of her day job, Emily Haines’ solo album, Knives Don’t Have Your Back, really does. Not throughout, but just often enough; a lyric here a string bed there, stabbing through your defenses and turning you into a jibbering, weeping wreck.

It happens live too. When Haines creeps on, barely acknowledging the crowd and looking like ET with an ASBO, sits down at the piano and starts playing, it’s utterly captivating – despite everything being so wrong. The place: ceiling too high, walls too clean, air not thick enough with the cigarette smoke of the damned, wrong, wrong, wrong. The time: Saturday night, party time; the day of freedom before the day before the return to mundanity, Oh. So. Wrong.

“I hate quiet music. But this is alright, right?” Haines asks. And yes, yes it is. Our Hell and Crowdsurf Off A Cliff are dispatched by her alone at that piano, amplifying the bleakness of the album versions and both containing those moments of cardiac disruption.

Like when she solemnly sighs in that breathy timbre, part Cat Power part Nina Simone part broke-down heroine of a thousand failed dreams, “That’s why I tried to save you / But it can’t be done. It can’t be done…”, or drives a Big-Rig through the centre of the suburban existence: “All the babies tucked away in their beds / we’re out here screaming”, she sings, suggesting Sunday morning trips to Mothercare aren’t going to be on her radar anytime soon.

After that she’s joined by a quartet of strings to continue the trek onwards through the tracks from Knives. Doctor Blind, a glorious Reading In Bed and a lovely and deceptively pissy a Maid Needs A Maid are delivered with a disarmingly naked honesty. Those strings, silken and emphatic, providing a much needed shoulder for that voice to cry on.

And cry it does. By the end there isn’t one amongst us who wouldn’t tap dance over razor wire to give her a hug. Which isn’t something which ever springs to mind after a Metric gig.

buy Emily Haines MP3s or CDs
Spotify Emily Haines on Spotify

More on Emily Haines
Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton – Choir Of The Mind
Metric’s Emily Haines: “I keep forgetting I’m supposed to set goals” – Interview
Emily Haines – Knives Don’t Have Your Back
Emily Haines @ Bush Hall, London