Saturday night, a jam-packed Commodore played peppy host to Metric, the darlings of Canadian indie. It was an exclusive show to which entry could only have been gained with either good fortune or good friends. Ultimately though, contest winners and plus-ones alike shared one and all in the same satisfying sonic experience.
From start to finish, the show was a more or less unrelenting surge of sound. The quartet founded in Toronto in 1998 stuck mainly to tracks from their latest release, Synthetica. In fact, they knocked off the first handful of songs in the order they appear on the album. First was “Artificial Nocturne,” which I think achieved the opposite effect suggested by its sleepy title. The ideal introductory tune, its droned opening chords first enraptured and then enlivened the eager audience. The new tracks poured out after that; the latest single “Youth Without Youth,” vigorously led the charge.
Synthetica’s tone and themes were matched in live performance. Red and blue lights flashed, flooded and lingered throughout the music and over the crowd. An electricity of thumping sensual expression. There seemed a galaxy of lasery dance rhythms. At one point, during “Dreams So Real,” I had the stark feeling that I was in Tron: Legacy or plainly, riding the very currents so frequently pumping music from my laptop to my ears. Fixated on these “false lights for the sun,” our sight’s followed the oral streams back to their living source, divided in four still pillars on stage.
They were a diamond: At the back, drummer Joules Scott-Key kept to his robust beat and swinging rhythms; on the flanks, James Shaw and Joshua Winstead plucked out the sinister chords and held up their end of the backing vocals; and up front, Singer Emily Haines favoured the lean synth keys and bitingly unpretentious tambourine. The foursome had a self-assured and cohesive presence. Their bravado, however, relied as always on Haines’ gemlike focus and feverish persona.
Her glossy and distant voice, her gossipy melodies and buoyant demeanor seemed both to tiptoe and tread through the audience like an arrogant inchworm or a tuxedoed vanilla bean, though she moved very little herself. She showed an admirable investment in her own lyricism and a duty to transmit her songs with a little force and a lot of poise. “Lost Kitten” and “Clone” were particularly electrifying numbers. There was, nonetheless, something missing.
A tangible sense of expectation permeated the swollen and sparkling room. What about the old go-to’s of the early albums? We waited through the renovated set, patient and spellbound. And though they did put forth energetic, if celebrated, renditions of “Monster Hospital” and “Dead Disco,” they left a slightly tepid longing for “Combat Baby” and “Poster of a Girl.” Still, The Commodore was neither infirmary, nor graveyard; don’t get me wrong. The fresh and danceable set-list more than sufficed.
The show ended with a bare-bones acoustic rendition of “Gimme Sympathy.” Though not nearly of the profundity of something by either of the titans referred to in the song, it was a precious and yawning little end to the night that did well to inspire a sing-along and a collective smile upon the face of the crowd. Metric’s show was a measured take on our times that both attested to the desire for pulsing communal sensation and then sought it in electronic defiance and digital distribution. At 11 pm, as we made our way out the door and onto Granville Street, we were handed “Metric Live 2012” posters which went on to line the coat-checks of so many of the various clubs DJ’ed by this city’s finest.