‘Canadian Invasion’ all-stars Metric returned to New York, their home away from home, and delivered an amazing set to an awed and excited crowd.Having dropped their last album all the way back in 2005 (their breakthrough Live It Out), Metric has been off for awhile, as singer/keyboardist Emily Haines released solo records Knives Don’t Have Your Back last year and What Is Free To a Good Home? EP (QRO review) this year, while bassist Josh Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key worked on their own side-project, Bang Lime. Their only real unified presence has been the June release of their heretofore unreleased would-have-been-first record, 2001’s Grow Up and Blow Away. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the packed house eagerly anticipated Metric’s return from hiatus. And guitarist James Shaw seemed to have spent his time off writing, as almost half their set at Webster Hall (QRO venue review) on Friday, September 21st was brand-new material, starting with the opener, “Freddy Mercury”.
The tribute to the late Queen singer was curiously perhaps the only slip-up of the night. Grand, but a little plodding, it wasn’t the best choice to begin the night, and would have played better later own, where it’s stomping nature would have been a great fit with the crowd’s floor-shaking fever. The clever new piece “Twilight” had a nice march-up beat, and won over thanks to Haines’ stage presence. But it wasn’t until Metric pulled out the driving-synth “Poster Of a Girl” that the walls really began to quake.
One reason the single off of Live It Out turned into an anthem at Webster Hall was that the place was full of said girls. With Haines embodying the alt-‘girl power’ that Canada seems to have in spades these days (see Leslie Feist, Neko Case, and Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell), the crowd was full of females in their late teens and young twenties – a fair number of who were shouting, “I love you, Emily!” This isn’t to say Metric – and Haines – didn’t have a healthy XY audience as well. Haines has long been a dream-girl for indie-rock fellas, or as one (straight male) fan in attendance that night put it, “As gay men and teenage girls feel about Justin Timberlake, I feel about Emily Haines.”
Outside of the new material, Metric stuck mostly to singles like “Poster” and the following “Dead Disco”. The not un-disco-like number had Haines playing off the crowd at the primarily-used-as-a-dance-club Webster Hall. The song also served to bring the audience right into the new “Joyride”. High and driving with an almost country-time beat, the melodic anthem was one of the best-received new songs of the night, along with pressing alt-road of “Standing In Line”, a striking piece that virtually commanded everyone to push forward. In between these two new numbers lay “Empty”. Well stronger than on Live It Out, “Empty” was taken to eleven by Haines’ vigorous torso-twisting during the song’s on-off mini-explosions.
One of the few non-new, non-single tracks on the set-list, “Hustle Rose” was not just in the middle of the line-up, but also really at the heart of the performance. More somber and smooth, this downbeat number might not be what one would first pick as a crowd favorite, but it completely was, as the audience’s romping energy was converted into a grooving mass. But the stomp was back on again with “Combat Baby”, the second straight piece off of their 2003 debut LP, Old World Underground, Where Are You Know? The riffing and ripping on “faux punk fatigue” really connected to a hall full of indie-fans who can’t take the vainglorious posturing of punk, nor the pretentious twee-ness of the delicate anti-rock hipsters. Yes, you can rock and still be indie, a sentiment most definitely shared by the following “Hooks”. No new song so fit with an old one as did “Hooks” with “Baby”, as the straightforward ‘here’s the rock, now deal with it’ “Hooks” was in possession of a great beat and harmony, lifting everything else up.
As strong as the show had been to that point, in many ways, Metric saved the best for last. Before launching into a blistering, sensory-overload edition of Live It Out’s “Handshakes”, Haines played with crowd, bringing them to cheer en-mass with just a countdown (commanding the light show the same way), asking who would rather be at a Rolling Stones concert, and telling everyone how the band first met right there, in the Big Apple.
Emily Haines talking, Metric playing “Handshakes” live @ Webster Hall, New York, NY:
And with Winstead and Scott-Key laying down the grooving backbeat to the following “Rock Me Now” (the only other non-single, this one off of the never-had-a-chance-to-have-singles Grow Up and Blow Away), Haines first dedicated the song to a Canadian college (which had many students in the house), and then was on the receiving end of a bra thrown on stage. After congratulating the thrower on her bra size, she reminded the women there, “You know you can take this off when you’re out in the city, right?” One wonders how the cracking up Winstead was able to keep his steady beat.
Emily Haines giving dedications, getting bras live @ Webster Hall, New York, NY:
Also see them playing “Rock Me Now”
The elongated “Rock” just got longer as Metric encouraged the crowd to carry its own “Ooh-ooh-ooh” – even as the band members, one-by-one, left the stage. And so, instead of demanding an encore with loud, continuous cheering, the audience just kept oohing and oohing, all the while maintaining the rhythm, until the foursome returned (the first sight of which caused the it all to completely break down, of course). The group was back with a vengeance, right from the first “Bam-chicka-bam” of Live It Out’s “Monster Hospital”. Every chorus of “I fought the war” literally sounded and felt like it was going to bring Webster Hall crashing down – and it did so for Haines, who slipped and fell right near the song’s end, landing flat on her face, but she never stopped singing. And the evening was closed out with the apropos new song, “Stadium Love”, a bopping, rocking, spanking, stop-start, up-down barrel of fun.
Metric playing “Monster Hospital” live @ Webster Hall, New York, NY:
With the group only playing a handful of dates to test out new material and get back into rhythm, one might have wondered what to expect when Metric took the stage. What one got exceeded all expectations, with an incredible collection of hits old and soon-to-be. Emily Haines was strutting her stuff like a modern-day Deborah Harry – or a younger Kim Gordon – moving seamlessly from serious rockstress behind the keys to full-fledged, right at the lip of the stage, frontwoman. And the packed-with-people Webster Hall was packed with fans almost as excited to hear Metric, as the band was to play.