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“Stadium Love” In A Smaller Venue: Metric Play The Tower
At the Tower Theater on Saturday, September 22nd, the crowd gathered in that venerable lobby, under the old vaulted ceiling with the tarnished bronze light fixtures and the peeling, pale-colored walls painted too many layers thick, for the Metric show. They were hard to characterize, or categorize, that crowd: some hipsters, some regular dudes in tees and pre-hemmed shorts, people of all shapes and sizes, and ages too.
It’s hard to know what you might expect from a crowd assembled for a genre-bending band like Metric, the post-punk/synth-pop/new wave-y rock group fronted by a lanky blonde girl born in India and raised in Ontario. Emily Haines and her crew finally began to garner the popular attention their music deserved following the radio play of singles from their fourth record, 2009’s Fantasies. Now on tour again in support of this year’s Synthetica, Metric have evolved a stage presence that’s been groomed through their years of collaborative writing and stage shows, and they’re quite obviously more comfortable than ever in their own skin.
During the set, Haines considered the daunting legacy of playing that stage. “This is a beautiful room, I like this place. All this history, right? It’s very serious. You go backstage and it’s like, ‘The Rolling Stones played here, everybody played here’ . . . you just kind of live up to it, you know? It’s a good vibe . . . that’s the kind of atmosphere that you want in life.” As they played, the crowd was warm, receptive, dancing and flailing erratically, some whistling and screaming, many standing still with smartphones and recording devices poised to capture the colors of a formidable lightshow, and the frenetic performance of the blonde singer. As happy as the crowd seemed, you could argue that no one in the room was having as much fun as Emily Haines herself was, stomping through the selection from Metric’s catalog in short shorts as though to her own workout video soundtrack. I couldn’t help but wonder if she did this at home too, on a regular weekday night.
Focused on cuts from the new record, the majority of which made their way onto the setlist, the band favored their latest work over earlier crowd pleasers — omitting “Police and the Private,” “The List,” “Poster Of A Girl,” “Combat Baby” — with most of the rest of the show cherry-picked from Fantasies. Still, they threw in one song from their first record (“The Twist”), favorites “Monster Hospital” and “Dead Disco,” and “Black Sheep,” their contribution to the soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, with which they opened their surprisingly lengthy encore.
And they saved the best for last. With moody, muted electric accompaniment from guitarist James
Shaw and bassist Joshua Winstead, Haines cooed a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” toward the end of the encore set, perhaps inspired by her new collaboration with its author Lou Reed, who contributed vocals to the chorus of Synthetica’s penultimate track, “The Wanderlust.” And after a kinetically delivered “Gold Guns Girls,” Haines slowed it up, reflecting interactively with the audience for a minute as a preface to the show closer: a bare, acoustic performance of Fantasies single “Gimme Sympathy” that brought some intimacy to the full two-story venue that night, lit now with the yellow glow of incandescent house lights.
In a curtain-call style all-band-member embrace, Emily Haines waved us goodnight. There’s no doubt about it: she’s a regular rockstar now, in the true Tower Theater tradition.
More Metric at their website, ilovemetric.com.