Review: Metric

(Above: Metric roar through “Dead Disco” in their native Toronto.)

By Joel Francis

It’s hard not to be impressed by the Midland Theater. The opulent 3,500-seat venue has hosted scores of acclaimed performances in its 82-year history. Both Spoon and the Bravery commented on the austere surroundings during their sets at the annual “The Night the Buzz Stole Christmas” concert on Thursday night. And why not? The grand old venue was both more stately and spacious than the clubs and outdoor festivals they were accustomed to playing.

Emily Haines, the vibrant front woman for the indie pop quartet Metric, however, did not comment on the hall; she owned it. Overcoming an unkind mix and unfamiliar audience, Haines commanded the stage and the band slowly won over the crowd with its merger of ‘80s pop, dance, industrial and indie rock.

Filled by the swirling synthesizers of opening number “Twilight Galaxy,” the Midland felt more like a basement club than a cavernous theater. Metric is much edgier in concert and they put it to good use. Haines strapped on an electric guitar for “Help I’m Alive” and locked eyes with guitarist James Shaw while he peeled off a solo that recalled Mike Campbell’s on “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” “Dead Disco,” the lone number not drawn from “Fantasies,” the ensemble’s celebrated new release. Packed with several crescendos, it was an industrial barrage that felt like a Nine Inch Nails outtake.

The first half of the 40-minute set felt like a teaser for the second. Haines prefaced “Gimme Sympathy,” a song that revives the age-old debate over the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, with part of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My.” The performance drew a spirited response from the crowd. Metric seized on this newfound attention by segueing into the spiky “Sick Muse,” which drew even more cheers and hands in the air.

By the time Haines roared into “Stadium Love,” it felt like the band was ready to play Arrowhead. Although Metric headlined the much smaller Granada Theater six months ago, and couldn’t command a crowd this size on their own – the band was second on the “Buzz” bill of four acts – they’ll get there soon enough. And when they do, they’ll be ready for it.

Setlist: Twilight Galaxy, Help I’m Alive, Gold Guns Girls, Gimme Sympathy > Sick Muse > Dead Disco, Stadium Love

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