The performance commenced with great style. It’s not often that lights and audio begin prior to a band’s appearance, but that’s how Metric took to the stage at Chicago’s Vic Theater. As blue lights pulsed and white ones danced the members of Metric took the slow building hallucinogenic sounds that were already being played and transitioned it into their song “twilight galaxy.” This was a solid show starter that was part electro-psych, part pop/rock, but all class.
Metric is a band that continually attempts to walk the line between rave and rock n’ roll. Of course, their version of rock n’ roll is highly supplemented by the contemporarily popular electrification of indie rock. Their crowd on this spring evening also reflected that balance; it was a very crowded event full of fist-pumping, quasi-dancing “ravers” as well as the more stoic, devil-finger flashing, “rockers.”
Metric then went into 3 of their well-liked numbers from their album; Satellite Mind, Front Row and Help I’m Alive. During these numbers Metric really showed off the capability of their lighting scheme. For being within a mid-size venue it really was top notch, both in the manner the lights were emotionally in-sync with the music and with the way they employed strobes and light curtains to keep their audience intrigued. This greatly added to the atmosphere of their show and definitely helped edge the audience into a heightened level of participation.
Yet musically, these anticipated songs came off slightly sterile. I enjoyed Emily Haines’ voice the most when she sang in a manner that was, for lack of a better term “noticeably live.” Only during Front Row did her voice seem to deviate even slightly from what’s heard on the album. And while this can be viewed as a feat by the vocalist, which it is, it just came off as slightly vapid (though this could have also been due to their being at the end of their American tour, or that the show started considerably early in the evening).
But they also killed. For this author, Metric was at their best when they walked the line between rock and rave completely balanced, or leaned slightly into their rock side. Now don’t misunderstand; because Metric employs swift, strict-in-time, dance-friendly beats in most all of their songs (indeed, it’s what they are known for). Yet they have quite a knack for constructing catchy rock-riffs that interact with the dancing beats in such a frolic-friendly manner, it’s when they are most gripping.
For this reason it was on such songs as Gimme Sympathy, Gold Guns Girls, Stadium Love and a new song (name unknown, was the 5th one of their set) in which they unleashed their most potent batch of live musical entertainment onto the Chicago crowd. These songs focused more on the guitar and usage of song progression, it addition to incorporating some psychedelic sounds. On these songs was when Metric stimulated and connected with their audience the most – or at least this particular audience.
Metric does not have an easy job; they are a Canadian indie rock band that plays music which is of similar character to stadium-friendly pop music. They walk that line well, bringing together people of different ages and genre loyalties together in Chicago for a raucously good time. Yet should they discover that sounding chic can quickly lead to sterility, and that their at their best when they honor their rock side, this is a band that has the talent and the know-how to ride the current wave of interests in glamorously electrified indie music for some time.
By Sean Brna