Call the Office
Feb. 2, 2005
This concert should have failed miserably. The opening band canceled, there was a three-hour wait from the time the doors opened, and the crowd was a mix of shy emo kids, 20-something hair-metal enthusiasts and 14-year-old girls who like the “do-do-do” part of that song they heard on their friend’s iPod once. It was a riot waiting to happen.
Then, a miracle happened. A blast of ear-shattering bass, a frenzied screech of guitar, a wail of crashing cymbals. Out of nowhere, she sprang, fearlessly confronting the audience from the small stage, teeth bared, hair down, one solitary hand raised in a motionless wave.
The moment Emily Haines grabbed the microphone, all was forgiven — suddenly three hours of waiting seemed like nothing.
Metric is a four-piece band from the Toronto indie-alternative scene. The band’s debut full-length LP Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? was released in 2002 to critical and commercial success, and the lead single “Combat Baby” was a smash hit on alternative rock radio stations.
Old World is such a heavily produced, multi-layered disc that to re-create it in a pleasing live show is a difficult task. Haines’s vocals were spot-on and seductive, and the bass was noticeable and danceable. The major nod needs to be given to the machine-like drumming of Joules Scott-Key. His steady beats drove each song to its peak, forcing the audience to clap along, dance along, or toss its heads from side to side.
Haines, with her sleek, playful and sexy stage persona, had the entire audience eating out of the palm of her indie-rock hand. It wasn’t simply the shy guys who fell in love; the girls were just as enthralled by this electric frontwoman.
Guitarist James Shaw seemed to be having an off night, with his amp periodically cutting in and out, and at times he didn’t seem to be the most talented of blokes to ever wield the axe. But this is nitpicking because when it counted, Shaw delivered.
Musical highlights of the evening were the more upbeat tracks that got the audience, according to Haines, “all sweaty and sexy.” “Combat Baby” would have gotten your grandmother to shake her money-maker. “Hustle Rose” was a bright neon lights orgasm that took everyone to Las Vegas and back in six minutes. But it was the closer “Dead Disco” that left the audience without a doubt in their minds that 20 years from now, they’ll be able to say “I remember when I saw Metric back in the day at…”
As the band continued to hammer out the song’s dance-pop bass line, Haines led a crowd-surfing marathon, fearlessly jumping into a sea of waiting hands from an audience gone berserk with excitement. It looked like there was a riot after all.