Though they're reaching musical elder statesman status after more than 20 years together, Metric’s set at the Fillmore felt just as assertive and fun as ever.
You have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to see if you attend a classical music concert. You know the songs you’re going to hear in advance, roughly what they’ll sound like, and you know you won’t get a lot of patter from the people on stage. Some conductors will vary the tempo or the volume of a particular instrument, but in general it’s not going to sound too different from any recorded version you’ll hear.
The Strathmore, where Canadian synth-rockers Metric played on Friday, is perhaps best known as a classical music venue since it’s home of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Seemingly taking a cue from classical performances, Metric’s songs, with few exceptions, sounded exactly as they do on their records. There was also very little audience interaction, and most folks in attendance could have guessed the set list (likely in order) before the show even started. Not a winning formula for a rock show.
This is not to say the show wasn’t enjoyable; it just got off to a prolonged slow start that saw the initially standing and screaming crowd settling into their seats. It didn’t help that three large racks of extremely bright spotlights repeatedly blinded the audience throughout the evening, beginning with the show’s opener, “Artificial Nocturne.” “I’m just as fucked up as they say,” sings vocalist Emily Haines in the first line of the song, the leadoff track to their recent album Synthetica. She may seem that way on record, but in concert Haines seems less fucked up and more like an Olivia Newton John impersonator, crisscrossing the stage with a run/dance move straight out of an 80s workout video that was on display all night, even as she played her keyboards.
The Strathmore might seem like an odd place for Metric to put on a show; there’s a viola concert at the venue the same night, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra play the following night. Even David Bryne and St. Vincent, who appear on September 30, seem to be a more logical choice for a suburban sit-down theater.
It’s not as if you can’t dance at the Strathmore, however, and that’s likely what you’ll be doing when the Canadian synth rockers pull into Bethesda on Friday. Metric center their music around frontwoman Emily Haines, and while it’s one thing to hear her voice so prominently on records such as their latest, Synthetica, it’s quite another to see the way she commands a stage during a live performance. Her nonstop twirling and dancing combined with her pitch-perfect vocals and instrumentation (she plays guitars and keyboards) make her and her compatriots a stellar live act.
Though they’re often pigeonholed as an electronica or dance band, Metric covers a wide swath of genres, sometimes in the same song. Synthetica is a darker record than its predecessors (more akin to Haines’ solo efforts) but no less dancy. You can expect to hear most of it played during their show in addition to older classics such as “Help I’m Alive” and “Gimme Sympathy.” You can also expect to hear many a lady (and likely several men) profess their love to Haines between songs. She does that to people.
This show is SOLD OUT, but there's always the internet people!
“I’m just as fucked up as they say” are the first words we hear from singer Emily Haines on “Artificial Nocturne,” the opening track on Metric’s fifth album Synthetica. She does nothing to disprove you of that notion over the majority of the album’s 11 tracks. While it ends on a slightly more positive note, this is as dark a record as the Toronto band has made.
That’s an unusual thing to say about an album that is, overall (and for lack of a better word), peppy. Metric has always made well-produced electronic indie rock. Guitarist/producer Jimmy Shaw knows how to layer on the sound without making it overwhelming, and gives Haines plenty of room for her vocals. To put it simply, it sounds like a Metric record. But a pretty boring one.