Aftermath: Metric's New Wave Coming-Out Party at Warehouse Live

[Ed note: Yes, we stayed for the entire show this time, but then... oh, never mind.]

When Aftermath first walked into Warehouse Live Monday night, we figured there must be some sort of secret Canada-to-Houston information pipeline we'd never heard about. We didn't think Toronto-born quartet Metric was all that popular, and expected an intimate affair in the Studio. Instead, the Ballroom was full on the side and all the way back to the soundboard, just like it was for Vancouver-dwelling Neko Case's show a couple of weeks back.

Shows what we know. (Shut up, Puscifer fans.)

Aftermath last saw Metric (we think) at the Austin City Limits festival either the year or the year after 2005's Live It Out came out; before that, it was at Stubb's inside when they were touring the album that brought them to most non-Canadians' attention, 2003's Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? We always liked the band's keyboard-dominated New Wave rock, but it also struck us as somewhat faceless, a collection of catchy hooks in search of a true identity. It struck us that way Monday too... for a while.

As someone not terribly familiar with Metric's recordings, Aftermath suspects at least some of the band's appeal has to come from dynamic singer Emily Haines. A constant blur of energy and enthusiasm, onstage Monday she was part doll, part robot, part cheerleader and part aerobics instructor we're pretty sure could run circles around us.

Although her breathy vocals tended to get buried by the mix, she came across as a honey-blonde cousin to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O. The gold lame minidress didn't hurt, but like Ms. O, Haines can rock, she can be vulnerable and she's definitely a role model - every time we looked around, we saw another girl in her early or mid-20s mouthing the lyrics verbatim.

When she wasn't making us tired just watching her run around, Haines doubled on synthesizer and guitar, helping create Metric's dense, pulsating sound that echoed electro-rock pioneers Roxy Music, Missing Persons and Berlin as it muscled its way among latter-day practitioners such as the Sounds, the Killers and the YYYs, especially after the NYC style-punk icons' clubby makeover on this year's It's Blitz!. Opener "Twilight Galaxy," from this year's Fantasies, began with brooding, ambient Eno-esque keyboards that boiled over when the drums kicked in and continued on the even more streamlined "Help I'm Alive."

By "Handshakes," Metric was really cruising, the synth-pop melting away into full-bodied - though no less electronic - rock, goaded by prickly, New Order-like guitar tendrils that increased in velocity until the song approached "Runnin' Down a Dream" (proving once and for all that Aftermath can trace any band back to Tom Petty). It was a couple of songs later, though, after Haines broke into the chorus of the Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right" out of nowhere, that the band truly blossomed.

The song was "Gimme Sympathy" and although the lyrics debate the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the music broke through in a floodlit wash of keyboards that revealed the humanity underneath all those electronics. (Hey, robots need love too.) From there on out, the show became a giant disco-rock party - "Dead Disco" was equal parts Kraftwerk and "Atomic"-era Blondie - that left no doubt even among us latecomers that Metric had truly arrived.

Metric came back to encore with tough but tender Old World ballad "Combat Baby." Aftermath left, and we weren't wondering why there were so many people at the show anymore, that's for sure.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray