With 2009’s Fantasies (QRO review), Toronto’s Metric were launched into the stratosphere, playing massive venues and receiving “Stadium Love”. Singer Emily Haines became maybe the biggest indie-rock crush out there (more so even than Ra Ra Riot’s Alexandra Lawn – QRO interview), as well as one of today’s major indie songstresses/icons. For fans, it’s been great to see a band you love getting the success they deserve, and clearly want – even if you know that you’ll never see them in a small, or even medium-sized, place again. So it was extra-special to see the band at their special fans-only show at Brooklyn’s not-a-stadium Music Hall of Williamsburg (QRO venue review) on Wednesday, June 13th.
It was a day after the release of Synthetica, their follow-up to Fantasies, as well as a day after playing a similar fans-only show in Toronto, so the event was in celebration of their new release. The group started off with the first three tracks from the new album, the slightly haunting (and slightly synthetic) opener “Artificial Nocturne”, killer first single “Youth Without Youth” (QRO review), and should-be-next-single “Speed the Collapse”. Playing so much material off a record that’s only been out for a day would be a risk, but these were hardcore Metric fans (save maybe for the VIPs in the upstairs balcony…), and they’d been listening to the record in the run-up to the show (and yes, in the silence right before the show started, one female fan yelled out, “I love you Emily!”).
Still, the crowd did go extra-wild for early Metric numbers like “Empty” (which included Haines doing her now-standard twist during the rockin’ chorus) and “Dead Disco”. Interestingly, those were the only two songs before the encore break not from Synthetica (the show featured all the Synthetica songs but “The Void” and “The Wanderlust”) – it was only with the encore return that they hit up Fantasies, and the group even skipped the Fantasies encore return song on the set list, “Help I’m Alive”, to go straight into Fantasies‘ “Gold Gun and Girls”. “Help” is always a song that you want to hear, but so is “Gold”, so can’t really quibble.
Metric closed their set by bassist Josh Winsted and drummer Joules Scott-Key leaving the stage, while Haines put down the guitar that she’d only just picked up for “Gold”, as she and guitarist James Shaw did an acoustic version of their wonderful “Gimme Sympathy”. But first Haines, who’d talked very little to the audience until that point, opened up to the crowd (after one fan gave her a drawing of the foursome’s faces – “That’s nice. Josh looks a little ill. Nice cheekbones…”), telling Music Hall how Williamsburg was actually a homecoming for them. The group had met in the now-trendy area of Brooklyn back in ‘99/’00 (Scott-Key & Winsted had come from Texas, Haines & Shaw from Toronto – by bus, because they didn’t have the money to fly…), back when it was a way different place. “You couldn’t get a roll of toilet paper, let alone a Sonic Youth onesy…” They had lived it what had been called a loft but was really a garage – “It’s a loft because there’s no walls?…” But, though they were terrible times, they were also wonderful, as Haines looked back. She and Shaw then led the crowd in a sing-along to “Sympathy”, as well as bringing out Scott-Key & Winsted to close out the night like The Beatles on Yellow Submarine (QRO DVD review) – on a song…
The whole evening was being filmed by Metric, heavily restricting cameras (though a few über-fans up front still got theirs in), but there were still iPhones in the air to photograph the oh-so-photogenic band (security did stop anyone who was trying to video, though). The place surprisingly wasn’t as packed as one thought it was going to be – it wasn’t a ticketed show, just fan & VIP invites, so they could limit it to however many they wanted (and Music Hall looked particularly empty before they started, as seemingly all the VIPs were out on the pavement smoking until Metric hit the stage). But that just meant that those there were even luckier to have been there, to be able to see such a widely loved band up close.