For some reason, I'd always considered Metric to be an electro band, but at their show Saturday night at First Avenue they most definitely put on a rock 'n' roll show. Whereas lead singer Emily Haines' use of synthesizers seems to demand a lot of attention on record (including their latest, Fantasies), it was only one of several layers of sound in their live performance, and I was overwhelmed at times with how dynamic and intense the rest of the band could be.
In fact, I was overwhelmed by a lot of things while watching Metric. Haines was a captivating frontwoman, straddling the line between heartfelt and irreverent as she pranced around the stage and extended her lanky arms out into the audience. She was dressed in a rhinestone-studded leotard that seemed tailor-made for a hipster figure skater, and she marched around the stage with the precision of a robo-majorette on speed.
The band barely stopped between songs and Haines never stopped moving the entire time, running from behind her synthesizers to a cordless microphone and prowling back and forth along the edge stage, but they never seemed to grow weary. Even when she was jumping up and down Haines never lost her breath, a testament to her expertise as an effortlessly energetic frontwoman.
With shows like Metric on Saturday and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs a few weeks ago, I'm starting to see what Mark Mallman was talking about in a recent Decider interview when he said, "It's great that the show is back---that's what people want. In the early '90s, grunge music was like punishment for me. You just had to sit there with a guitar and pretend you're poor, you know? And now bands like Gogol Bordello, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fischerspooner are out there and they all have great live shows." Bands like Metric take the performance aspect of their live shows seriously, and when you compound Haines' stage presence with the bands' technical ability, it makes the audience feel like the cost of the concert ticket was well worth it.
Between songs, Haines spoke to the audience with a visible sincerity, confessing that she was feeling especially emotional that evening, and she took a moment to thank the Twin Cities for being a part of her band's roots. "Metric is a band with a lot of hometowns, and Minneapolis feels like one of them," she said. "I think it's because of the early days with Radio K, one of the first radio stations to believe in us. Love to Joe Frost and all of them."
During the encore, the rest of the band left the stage and left Haines alone with guitarist James Shaw. Shaw played a slow and melodic electric guitar riff while Haines danced around the stage like a laxidaisical ballerina, and she explained to the audience that this was where Metric all began. In a moment of quiet contemplation, she opined out into the crowd: "You have to remind yourself, in 2009, what rock and roll is. It's gotten really Hannah Montana out there... So Disney music is big, and everybody else is Mickey Mouse? Let me ask you a question: Do you think anyone would sign the Beatles in 2009?"
Haines and Shaw launched into their last song, "Live it Out," slowly and quietly before building to include the rest of the band. When they were finished, rather than rushing away, the entire band moved to the edge of the stage to take a bow together and shake hands with the front row; it was one of many aspects of the show that demonstrated just how sincere Metric is about their live show, how appreciative they are of their fans, and how capable they are of filling a room like First Avenue to the brim with excitement and adoration. As Haines herself sang, "We've got stadium love."