Metric's Sound Has Changed Over the Years, But That's Not a Bad Thing

Canadian four-piece, Metric, perform at the Fillmore Miami Beach.
Canadian four-piece, Metric, perform at the Fillmore Miami Beach.
Photo by Angel Melendez

During the chorus of the song “Celebrate,” lead singer and frontwoman Emily Haines of Metric sings, “Who wants to celebrate?/and who's just fine to sit and wait?/I gave it everything/cause I just wanted you.” The fourth cut from the band’s latest effort, Pagans in Vegas, “Celebrate” represents not only where Metric stands at this point in their 17-year career, but acts as the theme song for the group's 2015 tour. In fact, the Canadian four-piece performed a victory lap Monday evening at the Fillmore Miami Beach that found both its fans and its own leading lady reminiscing about past triumphs while celebrating the next era of Metric.

The concert began with a bit of local flavor as Fort Lauderdale-based sextet, Kids, centered around guitarist Josiah Sampson, bassist/vocalist Joshua Diaz, drummer Matthew Barrios and guitarist Christian Gonzalez, opened the lightly populated show. Employing enough instruments and vocal tricks – from flutes and horns to more whistling than all seven of the dwarves combined – to start their own mini-orchestra, Kids played a heavy dose of songs from their debut LP, Rich Coast. It was big, anthemic U2-type rock with the indie folk grandeur of Mumford and Sons with plenty of brash guitars and four-part harmonies. Kids are an exciting young band with a great sound, but a terrible name (what a pain in the ass to Google “Kids + Fort Lauderdale + Band.”)

South Florida's own Kids opened the show.
South Florida's own Kids opened the show.
Photo by Angel Melendez

Over the years, as the band has evolved in its songwriting, penning shinier and more ambitious electro-tinged thumpers, Metric has also apparently developed a flair for the dramatic. Emerging from a fog illuminated only by the LED torches they held in their hands, the faces of each member of Metric were hidden by bizarre animal masks, perhaps leftovers from Halloween. Haines wore a rainbow-painted unicorn head before trading that in for a set of massive peacock feathers adorned with multi-colored orbs resembling glowing gems. It was the first of several costume changes, each meant to match and accentuate the moods of the songs.

They began with “Lie, Lie, Lie” the first track off of Pagans In Vegas, but didn’t dawdle too long before reaching back to the platinum selling Fantasies and one of its more popular singles, “Help, I’m Alive.”

Still, any Metric fan knows that with each successive album, Metric moves closer and closer to a futuristic world where electronica, industrial, and techno rule the day. The band's catchy brand of electro-thrash pop has more in common these days with Garbage, Muse, and The Prodigy than with any of their indie pop contemporaries when they first debuted Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? in 2003.

The stage setup reflected this notion as well. This was not a show recommended for epileptics with all of the bouncing laser beams and flashing lights. Yes, Metric shined bright enough on its own, but the blinding laser pyramid sitting behind drummer Joules Scott-Key should’ve come with a warning and a pair of sunglasses at the door. One thing that hasn’t changed is the band’s sensory-shattering energy, all led by Haines and her smoky vocals, personable warmth, and pogo stick-like agility. 

Metric has been able to evolve while still staying true to themselves.
Metric has been able to evolve while still staying true to themselves.
Photo by Angel Melendez

Midway through their set, Haines took a break to share how every song is a reminder of different times in her, and our, lives. They followed that up with an acoustic guitar led version of “Other Side,” a duet between Haines and guitarist James Shaw, a tune that Haines dubbed, “a little love song for lovers.” The show sped up again with a ruthless, punk performance of “Monster Hospital” during which Haines wore a green suede jacket with frills over her black corset.

Between all the mangling of fashion styles, ominous, echoing voice overs, and slick, explosive production, it’s easy to think this isn’t the Metric many fell in love with in the mid-2000s, but Haines herself is cognizant of the distance her band has covered over the years. As she put it, she was, “tripping balls on the past,” but managed to give everything an appealing, modern spin. Case in point was her a cappella version of “Combat Baby,” a fan favorite, assisted by an inspired crowd, before launching into “Gold Gun Girls” where Shaw went all Eddie Van Halen with a wicked guitar solo during the conclusion of the song.

By the time the encore rolled around and Haines announced the moment had arrived to “conclude this time travel,” it seemed like no one was ready to leave, including Haines who headbanged like a pro during the grungy throwback “Empty.” All good things must come to an end eventually except maybe for Metric who, like the Dylan Thomas poem they quote in the aforementioned “Lie, Lie, Lie,” will not let time defeat them and “rage against the dying of the light.”


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