Metric measures up at Grant

Crowd members pumped their fists for Metric at its second appearance this year on Tuesday night at Grant Hall.
Crowd members pumped their fists for Metric at its second appearance this year on Tuesday night at Grant Hall.
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Islands, who opened for Metric, rock out for the crowds at Grant Hall.
Islands, who opened for Metric, rock out for the crowds at Grant Hall.
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Metric’s Emily Haines cuts a scintillating sihouette.
Metric’s Emily Haines cuts a scintillating sihouette.
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Emily Haines lends her voice.
Emily Haines lends her voice.
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Islands added hot sax to their set.
Islands added hot sax to their set.
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Concert Review: Metric @ Grant Hall, Feb. 28

White, white, white was the colour scheme of choice at Tuesday night’s Metric show at Grant Hall. Appropriate perhaps, given the icy winds and occasional blusters of snow outside. With openers Islands decked entirely in white garb and Metric’s Emily Haines following suit, the blinding white strobe lights created a visual palette of uniformity. The night’s performances, however, were far from even-toned. While Metric and opener Holy Fuck pulled it off effortlessly, Islands failed to knock the ball out of the park.

In light of Islands’ difficulties, Holy Fuck should have received second billing rather than third. With the multi-tasking Brian Borcherdt at the helm, the lulling hypnosis of Holy Fuck’s performance showed why they were a sweeping success at last fall’s CMJ Festival at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC. Borcherdt—who also steers his own solo project, The Remains of Brian Borcherdt—and co.’s blend of bursting, experimental, and convulsive dance music was truly mesmerizing. With the crowd still trickling in during their early set, Holy Fuck deserved a fuller crowd.

To be fair, Islands started off with the best of intentions. They deserve credit for their mixture of instruments and creative forces, incorporating strings and bass clarinet rather effectively. But with each song sounding more and more similar to the last, the set developed a tired quality, despite the hearty efforts of the band members.

Headed by vocalist Diamonds (a.k.a. Nick Thorburn) J’aime Tambeur (Jamie Thompson), former members of the now-defunct band The Unicorns, it was clear that Islands meant well—but they missed the mark. It was especially obvious when Diamonds, clad in a veritable suit of white denim, tried diving into a crowd-surf and went straight to the floor. Crowd members’ jaws dropped in shock. Tripping as he remounted the stage, Diamonds hastily stormed offstage. The rest of his bandmates looked mightily confused before eventually following their fallen leader.

Metric took to the stage with a purpose after a lengthy wait between sets, and a white-frocked Emily Haines strode across the stage in her customary unaffected demeanour. Dainty and deceptively demure, the pale hue of her dress glowed intensely against the black lights as she and her bandmates took the stage, the darkness punctured by flashing white and blue lights and roars from the audience. Without further ado, Metric leapt fiercely into the title track from last year’s album Live it Out. As the crowd pulsated and pogo-ed with abandon, Haines rocked her mic stand back and forth to the beat. As the band segued into “Glass Ceiling,” my retinas began to burn from the ever-flashing light show, and I thanked my lucky stars that I don’t suffer from epilepsy. Haines sizzled and sauntered to the basslines laid down by Josh Winstead, looking one-half schoolgirl and one-half siren.

While the band was able to impressively maintain a high energy level in the audience throughout the set, crowd members surged for old favourites off Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?. “Wet Blanket” sent the audience reeling and singing along, but the ever-popular “Succexy” was conspicuously absent from the set list. Current single “Monster Hospital” took on an anthem-like quality as the crowd pumped their fists to drummer Joules Scott-Key’s driving beats.

Perhaps the biggest highlight was a steadily building delivery of “Hustle Rose,” prominently showcasing Haines’ synth skills, pure vocals and simultaneously erratic and beautifully measured dance moves. Combined with Jimmy Shaw’s crunchy guitar riffs and more dizzying light displays, the song soared through the rafters of Grant Hall.

After more twirling and pogo-ing by Haines during “Combat Baby,” Metric trotted offstage before returning for an encore featuring a haunting “Empty” and a rousing “Dead Disco.” Fortunately for Metric, their success formula proved itself once again. As the show closed, Haines and Winstead happily shook hands with front row fans, and Winstead indulged in a brief crowdsurf before leaving the stage. Fortunately for Winstead, his surf was vastly more successful than Diamonds’. Poor guy.

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