photos & review: metric @ ram's head live, 6.7.2013

Last fall, I asked Metric guitarist Jimmy Shaw to describe what Metric would be like if Metric was a girl, maybe one you ran into at a party.

Without hesitation he replied, “She’d be a lot like Emily. I have run into that girl at parties, and her name is Emily. And she’s awesome to party with. Someone said to me when we finished Fantasies, that all of Emily’s commentary and her opinions and her take on the world, and her gripes about it and issues with it that she’s sang for years and years and years– when we made the record Fantasies – it was balanced with just enough sugar to help the medicine go down.” 

After Friday’s sold out performance, it’s safe to say that Jimmy is right. Metric and Emily Haines are people you go to the party for, because it’s been a while, and you’re genuinely excited to hear about everything that’s happened since the last time. And the best part of this conversation is that Metric isn’t the old friend that you have to exchange pleasantries with; there’s no wading through polite conversation before you get to the good stuff. You pick up where you left off every time without skipping a beat.

Friday night was an apt reflection of this, as the set kicked off with three tracks from Synthetica, arguably their most divisive album. In the aforementioned conversation with Jimmy, Synthetica was defended brilliantly to the point where even non-believers, including myself at the time, were forced to respect the content and context of the album.

For some, Synthetica took a while to click. Some needed to hear the tracks live, some just had a spontaneous change of heart while listening to it in the car. At the last party, Emily was still trying to understand how to convince you to like her new record. At this one, she didn’t care what you thought because she loved it, and in turn you started to love it too.

Not only are all the Synthetica tracks well received, but they finally feel at home in the set. After 15 years of making music, Metric‘s sound continues to mature, and the conversation is never boring. The chemistry on stage is remarkable, and the chemistry between Emily and the audience is even moreso. Years of springing around the stage in great heels (velvet Margiela booties this time) have resulted in jaw-dropping legs that carry her around stage, dancing exuberantly and striding coyly. We’ve moved from the aggressive, unapologetically spastic ”Empty” all the way to the bright and danceable “Sick Muse,” and it’s clear that the room has accepted the challenge set forth kick up the energy with each song. 

Following a raucous performance of “Gold Guns Girls” that tested physical limits, the night ends on a softer, sweeter note with an acoustic version on “Gimme Sympathy.” Acoustic is not to be mistaken with melancholy; in this case the song is powerful and nostalgic. It embraces the emotions attached to Fantasies with a yearning, summertime variety of longing that’s directly reflected in the words “We’re so close/to something better left unknown/I can feel it in my bones.” 

Metric‘s ability to transport each person to a distant yet familiar feeling inside their own skin and bring us to the brink of epiphany is unrivaled. The rush is as saccharine as Emily’s voice, but the crash never comes. Instead, we ration these feelings cautiously until the next party, the next conversation, the next time we cross paths with a friend that reminds us why this feeling is what we live for.