Live Music + Gig Reviews

Metric @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

24 May 2010

A year on from the release of 2009’s Fantasies, Metric are back with a smattering of UK dates to promote the release of the deluxe edition.

They are a band whose influences and even genre are not immediately identifiable. Over their 12-year career, each album has had a broad sound, ensuring that their back catalogue is eclectic in variety. 2005’s success story Live It Out, full of guitar riffs, demonstrated a punk tinge to their pop core, with singles such as Monster Hospital.

In comparison, Fantasies saw their electro influence take precedence, allowing their repertoire to take on a chameleon-like quality – never a bad thing when it comes to live performance.

Tonight’s set begins with the foursome cracking on with the Fantasies-heavy set list, including Twilight Galaxy and Satellite Mind, and with no time for any banter with the crowd; it is just a constant stream of tracks flowing from one to another in electro-fuelled indulgence.

Emily Haines is a great front woman. Her voice pours out a rich, gravelly quality that just exudes sex, but in an effortless Canadian drawl that puts her up there with the best of the leading ladies. When prised away from her synthesizer there are some Karen O-esque moves pulled; she can’t keep still and spends the night jumping and teasing the front row with her tambourine in the midst of lighting that could give even the most stable of people an epileptic seizure.

It also helps that the band supporting her are very tight. James Shaw and Josh Winstead are more than happy to keep strumming as a means of giving Haines the opportunity to strut a bit more and the quality of their playing proves to be a treat.

They do write damn catchy pop songs, proven by the crowd’s reaction to singles such as Help I’m Alive and Gold Guns Girls. Haines belts these out and is in her element as the crowd sting to life after a somewhat passive reaction to the opening stream of album tracks.

It’s at this point that Haines seems to get carried away with the enthusiasm and actually starts to speak to the crowd. Chants of “Rock and Roll will never die” are slightly cringeworthy; perhaps Metric should stick with the less-banter-roll-on-the-next-song mantra adhered to in the first half of the set.

But she’s on a roll now. “I don’t know if we can change things, but we can change music, because we just fucking did in this room tonight.” That’s funny, because only a few minutes prior to this bold statement Haines had been projecting in her sultry tones “Who’d you rather be, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?” This discussion of hypothetical emulation may be a key nod to a popular culture reference and paramount to a good pop lyric, but the voice of ground-breaking music it ain’t.

There’s nothing wrong with their pop-oriented work, with its generic flirtations with rock, electro and new wave. It has obviously built them their fan base. But, please Miss Haines, please stop trying to protest by being something that you’re not. You do pop well, and that’s all that really matters.

Metric played: Twilight Galaxy, Satellite Mind, Front Row, Help I’m Alive, Empty, Collect Call, Gold Guns Girls, Gimme Sympathy, Sick Muse, Dead Disco, Stadium Love Encore: Monster Hospital, Combat Baby (acoustic)

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Metric @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London