Monday, October 5, 2009

Metric live in Melbourne 2009 - venue: Billboard Club

There's no doubt the exposure of having your songs in the latest ultra-trendy HBO drama series works well for bands. Looking around at the ecstatic crowd gathered to see Metric tonight, I'd say (making one of many broad sweeping judgments to come) most their fans were watching Grey's Anatomy or CSI when they first heard them. This is their first ever Australian visit, but it has been preceded by half a dozen of the Toronto band’s songs playing over the credits of all the credible US dramas. This is the modern equivalent of three top 20 singles and a saucy photo scandal, probably.

In reality, Metric have gained much of their notoriety overseas through connections with fellow Canadians, the much loved Stars, sharing flats with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and good old fashioned touring. In their early days Metric also worked briefly with legendary UK dance producer Stephen Hague whose influence comes through on Twilight Galaxy, which opens the set at Billboard tonight. As far as beginnings go, it's a perfect start to the high energy performance. Singer Emily Haines rocks back and fourth as she pounds the keyboard, creating a thick pulsing layer of techno-noise almost drowning out the band. The last show I saw at the Billboard was Primal Scream who completely slayed my senses (including the all important sense of balance) so to avoid a repeat of that, I stayed close to the back of the room. There's something strange about the way the Billboard is designed - it seems to trap the energy of the bands and the punters which gradually builds into an oppressive, heavy atmosphere. I'm thinking about ventilation but can't take my eyes off these frantic pogo-ing figures getting off to all that sweet noise.

Metric were no wilting flowers themselves, leaping and darting around the stage. Haines especially is fun to watch as she throws her tall thin frame about like a woman possessed. Guitarist Jimmy Shaw and bassist Josh Winstead are all smiles, throwing action poses in between bouts of jumping on the spot. Behind the band there are four equal sized rectangle screens constantly changing colour and pattern - I think we're being hypnotised. There are also two live feed screens of the stage for the people at the back of them room, which actually offer a relief from the visual overload happening at the front. Four static cameras lazily switch between views of each member, reminding me of dodgy bootleg concert videos you used to get at record fairs.

During the stadium-sized Gimme Sympathy, one of the cameras catches the fans close to the stage half bathed in light, all grinning and singing along to every word of this song. I’m not totally clear on the meaning of Gimme Sympathy but it seems to be about knocking bands whose sound rips off the Beatles and the Stones. In 2005 Metric supported The Rolling Stones on tour which makes me think there could be a mutual appreciation thing going on between the two groups.

One thing that is clear even from the back of the venue is the mutual appreciation between Metric and their audience. Everyone up front seems determined to make the band feel welcome and greatly anticipated, while Metric are gunning to win over everyone not already into it. That vibe rules the night and it’s almost an exhaustive feeling of love between band and fans, to the point where I feel like I’m intruding on two young lovers in the honeymoon period.

There isn’t a great deal of talk in between shags, sorry, songs, but rather it’s a call and response during the more well known numbers. Haines barks a line and holds her mic over the heads of front row, they respond enthusiastically and apparently correctly to each ‘command’. Despite all of the exuberance and pace of the show, I feel as though Metric have left their best ‘til last; Help I’m Alive comes along and kicks up a massive storm of noise and feedback while the stage is drenched in blue light. This ‘My Bloody Valentine moment’ comes as a welcome shock, but only makes me wish more of their songs tonight had the same thrill factor. After a brief exodus, there’s just a single encore of Stadium Love which is the band’s only softy.

Metric have four albums in the bag and have been playing together for ten years, so they have a comfortable confidence as a live band. I don’t know if tonight is them playing at their best or taking a bit of a walk through the routine, but something didn’t fully translate to me as a punter. I wouldn’t say I’m a convert to what for some fans here tonight is “the church of Metric”, but I’ll gladly drop into the confessional and admit to having a damn good time.


No comments:

Post a Comment