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Metric at Rock the Garden, 6/15/13

Metric at Rock the Garden, 6/15/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Metric
Rock the Garden, Walker Art Center
Saturday, June 15, 2013

Metric pulled off a mighty efficient show to close out 2013's running of 89.3 the Current and the Walker's Rock the Garden on Saturday. With little banter and just the power of stadium-sized material, radiant frontwoman Emily Haines and her three associates delivered 70 minutes of precision work.

The set wasn't without its share of improvised audience participation and theatrics, but even as the cooler evening air soothed the attendees, the band was playing to a slightly agitated crowd that wasn't in the mood for any more surprises. (The Dan Deacon parking garage performance seemed to go over better than the one-song Low set and the early afternoon rain.)

See Also:
Slideshow: Rock the Garden, the Music
Slideshow: Rock the Garden, People and Scenes

Low's one-song set at Rock the Garden totally ruled

"Hello again, Minneapolis!" was as much as Emily Haines said for most of the set. From this viewer's vantage point it was difficult to see if her blonde locks were blown from her face by consistent wind gusts or a fan mounted to her ornate wooden keyboard stand, but it was an electrifying addition to her already powerful stage presence. As she led her band -- guitarist James Shaw, bassist Joshua Winstead, and drummer Joules Scott-Key -- Haines over-accentuated her lyrics to ensure that they were discernible, and then repeated them and looped them through her treasure chest of keyboards and vocal effects to ensure they were unforgettable.

Metric at Rock the Garden, 6/15/13
Metric at Rock the Garden, 6/15/13
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen

After a toy piano-adorned "Artificial Nocturne," she gripped her gilded microphone and strutted for a Blondie-tinged run through "Youth Without Youth" and implored the jam-packed crowd to "jump with me." And then there was a whole lot more space -- at least in the three or so inches between the ground and the soles of those assembled. The first crowd surfer of the set sailed through.

The headliner at Rock the Garden is at an advantage in two particular ways. The crowd had plenty to drink, and it's a cinematic display as the sun speeds its collapse below the horizon, as it did while Metric's dramatic "Speed the Collapse" played. Capitalizing on nature's gift of a flickering orange sky gradually diminishing, "Empty" got Haines working the whole stage, and Shaw's bursting guitar work laid on the intensity as everyone was ordered to "Shake your head, it's empty."

The disadvantage of the final slot at Rock the Garden, of course, is the strict 10 p.m. curfew. Since Metric got up there at about 8:50 p.m., their efficient work was necessary so that they could hope to finish a regular set's worth of their lengthier, expanding songs -- adorned with codas and sing-along moments.

Winstead and Scott-Key had no problem keeping the tempo up for this race to the cliff, and raged with power for "Synthetica," which took on new life in a live setting after an abundance of spins in the past several months on the Current. The tougher song to pull off, given all of the energy particles in the air, was the more-staid "Clone." Still, this was where the blocks all fit together for what would be the beginning of the end of the night. Haines grabbed her sparkling tambourine as darkness hugged the proceedings, and she aptly sang about it being "late in the day."

 

What came next proved that Metric is really a bargain for U.S. crowds who might not understand that they've won a ton of Junos (the Canadian Grammys), and are no stranger to playing to crowds as large as the 10,000 or so assembled for Rock the Garden. Haines knows how to adjust her onstage movement so that she's playing all the way to the back row of a hockey arena, and "Breathing Underwater" with its U2-like punch of bass is a fireworks display distilled into pop songwriting. The crowd hooted along and was glad to provide an a cappela accompaniment at the end.

Metric at Rock the Garden, 6/15/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

To follow that with "Dead Disco" was a reminder of the nascent Metric. The expanded version of a dance-rocker that dates back to 2003's Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, is now a textbook example of how to keep the essence of a great song alive. A little bit of Karen O came through on this devilish rendition. Haines strapped on a guitar for "Gold Guns Girls," but it was Shaw who delivered the jaw-dropping fretwork to keep the Police-leaning song going.

Everyone was glancing at their watches as the minutes ticked closer to 10 p.m., though. Shaw swapped out for an acoustic guitar rapidly, and after Haines remarked that they'd come "from the 7th Street Entry all the way to here," the pair loaded up a tear-jerking "Gimme Sympathy." Though no one would've complained about Metric going overtime -- aside from the Minneapolis Police -- this rapid closure was the perfect final exhalation.  

Critic's Notebook

The Crowd: Really knew their Metric songs, and weren't shy to let anyone know it.

Personal Bias: This was not a set I was looking forward to. Silly me.

Random Notebook Dump: Does Emily Haines own pants?

Setlist:
Artificial Nocturne
Youth Without Youth
Speed the Collapse
Dreams So Real
Empty
Help I'm Alive
Synthetica
Clone
Breathing Underwater
Sick Muse
Dead Disco
Gold Guns Girls
Gimme Sympathy


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