I liken the spate of ’80s revivalist acts cluttering up the musical marketplace to the ubiquity of Starbucks franchises across the U.S. – you know exactly what you’re going to get going in, and it will more than likely taste exactly the same no matter where you are. There’s something vaguely comforting in that, but isn’t it much more interesting to find someone doing something new with the same ingredients?
It was a question that plagued me throughout Metric‘s heated performance at a sold out Wonder Ballroom on Friday. All the constituent elements were in place – the glitzy keyboard sounds, disco rhythm section, chiming guitar lines and a sexy, shaggy-haired blonde siren on vocals. But it was a performance that felt like comfort food, refusing to challenge anyone’s preconceptions of the band or the recorded versions of the songs.
In spite of that, it was hard not to be engaged by the energy this Toronto-based quartet exhibited during their performance. Front woman Emily Haines was in fine voice all night – particularly on the material from the band’s latest album Fantasies – and spent a lot of time working the front of the stage with her thin frame jutting out in all manner of impossible angles as she danced. As well, James Shaw wrenched some interesting Chris Stein-like tones from his battery of guitars throughout the evening, taking particular pleasure in his solo on “Help I’m Alive”. (Side note: I was also quite pleased to see a person of color in the band, an all too noticeable rarity in the world of indie rock.)
At one point, though, Haines bantered her way through a strange dead spot in the band’s set, prior to them playing another Fantasies track, “Gimme Sympathy”. The lyrics of the song ask the question, “Who would you rather be: The Beatles or The Stones?” According to Haines, “the answer is Metric, of course.” It’s a throwaway answer to a throwaway question, but it’s a response that speaks volumes about the disposable nature of the music that Metric makes.