Metric, Half Moon Run House of Blues October 15, 2012
Did you feel that cool front come through? If you didn't, you should get out more. Canadians have been rolling deep through H-town as of late, and they seem to be bringing some welcome weather patterns with them from the Great White North.
Toronto's The Weeknd played Bayou Music Center on Friday, but I skipped that one in order to check out Stars perform for a packed house at Fitzgerald's on the same night. Almost before I could finish digesting that show, a third Canadian ACL Fest act -- Toronto's Metric -- took over the House of Blues on Monday.
Whereas Stars' set on Friday felt like an intimate little dinner party among old friends, Metric came to town looking to blow the venue's doors off, plain and simple. It was the last night of a five-week tour with Montreal's Half Moon Run, but if the band was tired, it damn sure didn't show.
I felt a little sorry for Half Moon Run, to be perfectly honest. The talented young quartet of multi-instrumentalists is touring behind its debut album, Dark Eyes, and the group was still obviously giddy to be playing its charming brand of rootsy, relaxed synth-rock to virgin ears.
Inevitably, though, all memory of Half Moon Run dissipated the moment electromagnetic front woman Emily Haines and her Metric-mates appeared on stage. Suddenly, the entire room seemed to begin vibrating.
Metric opened their set with the first two tracks from their excellent new record, Synthetica. After Haines wrapped up the album's lonely opener, "Artificial Nocturne," the band cranked up for real on the pulsing single "Youth Without Youth."
Holy shit. The four-piece sounded absolutely massive, thanks to some to slick sound engineering and the HOB's mighty PA. The electricity didn't just crackle out of the speakers, it exploded into the crowd as if designed to clear the decks of an enemy naval vessel.
As lush and powerful as Metric sounded, they brought plenty to look at, too. A dazzling LED lighting display showered the audience in blinding strobes, colorful crosshatching and vibrant lasers. Even so, most of the eyes in the venue remained glued to Haines.
Baring her knockout gams as usual, the singer/synther never seemed to stop moving. Wearing a leather jacket dripping with chains and a perfectly tailored pair of black hot pants, Haines worked up a healthy glow jazzercising to the beat.
The first half of the performance was taken almost entirely from Sythetica, and the crowd was into it. When the group's synthesizers were blown up to gargantuan size on "Dreams So Real" and the stage set bathed the balcony in purple laser light, a visceral reaction was elicited from the crowd not often seen at indie-pop concerts. The audience seemed to ecstatically recoil from the sound in a manner previously seen only at dubstep parties.
On older cuts, the band lowered the guitar boom, as well. James Shaw proved he doesn't need no fancy MIDI controllers to impress with a nice guitar solo on "Empty" as Haines bashed a tambourine like it had insulted her. The band shifted comfortably from chilly New Wave to pure rock for "Stadium Love" and "Black Sheep," sending the crowd into gleeful hysterics.
After pleasantly pummeling fans with raw, plastic synth power all night, Metric took care to end the show on a cleansing, organic note. Shaw picked up an acoustic guitar to accompany Haines on a gentle arrangement of "Gimme Sympathy."
"We have a lullaby for you," Haines told the crowd. "If you know it, you have to sing along."
Sing along they did, joined by bassist Joshua Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key, both of whom were sweating and smiling. Stripped of all their lasers and sonic trappings, it was almost startling to be forced to confront Metric as vulnerable singers and guitar players rather than the cyborg rock gods that they seemed to be for nearly two hours. Like everything else they did Monday, though, it worked.
With five albums and nearly a decade of touring now under their belts, Metric appeared to be at the absolute height of their powers this week. They may be propping up those hooks with titanic keyboards, but as that acoustic closer proved, they hardly need a crutch.
Personal Bias: I needed a nice break from the more aggressive stuff I've been covering lately. Stars on Friday and then Metric were just what the doctor ordered. See you at Walters on Wednesday for Skeletonwitch.
The Crowd: A diverse, dance-inclined crowd of men and women in their late twenties and early thirties.
Overhead In the Crowd: "Whaddya mean you didn't get me a beer? Get back over there, then!"
Random Notebook Dump: In a cool moment building anticipation for the encore, Metric's boxy lighting rig became a gigantic LED countdown clock, prompting the crowd to shout out "Ten! Nine!" like it was New Year's. Cool.
Artificial Nocturne Youth Without Youth Speed the Collapse Dreams So Real Empty Help I'm Alive Synthetica Clone Breathing Underwater Sick Muse Dead Disco Stadium Love
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Black Sheep Gold Guns Girls Gimme Sympathy