The Metric concert last night had to be the most punctual rock show to ever take place at the Fillmore Miami Beach. Maybe it was the five cameras preparing to stream the show live on Myspace; it was the Florida entry for Bud Light's 50/50/1 music festival -- 50 bands, playing 50 states on one night, sponsored by Bud Light.
But after the doors opened, it looked like only 50 people showed up. The crowd trickled in slowly for a decent, if far from sold-out show to see the Canadian headliners. Local garage trio, the Jacuzzi Boys, walked on stage at 8:30 on the dot. A puff of smoke engulfed Diego Monasterios' drum kit, and they were off.
See also: Metric at Fillmore Miami Beach (Photos)
The hiss and warped clash of Danny Gonzalez' bass and singer Gabriel Alcala's guitar never sounded grander than inside the cavernous Fillmore. Alcala's usual echo-effected barking vocals had an extra layer of resonance as the band shredded through one song after another with hardly a pause. But apparently it wasn't fast enough.
Alcala dedicated their last song "Fruits" to his mom, dad, and sister. The band began to perform the perky song with an ominous intro, but a few seconds in, they suddenly stopped. "So, I guess we can't play that last song," Alcala said matter-of-factly. "Thank you very much. Good night," and the stage was swarmed by roadies re-arranging things, as the three packed up their gear.
Less than 25 minutes later, at 9:30 exactly, the house lights went down, and two bright blue spots lit up a synthesizer at the front of the stage. A crane camera suddenly swept over the pit, and Metric bounded out, starting with "Artificial Nocturne." With its spare opening first verse that returns on a second refrain with added layers of synth and a crystalline guitar line at almost double time, the song is capped by singer Emily Haines cooing vocals. It made for an irresistible opening number.
Metric offered up a tight show that featured a heavy selection from their latest album, Synthetica. Haines kept her legs active, playing a zippy keyboard accompaniment while doing some high knee drills as James Shaw took the spotlight for a stomp-worthy guitar solo on "Youth Without Youth."
Shaw stood mostly in one spot, to Haines' right, his lanky body ecstatically bending notes out of his guitar or adding extra synth sounds with a handy pair of keyboards. Bassist Joshua Winstead was the only one close to as animated as the frontwoman. He swung his bass, juggling one foot with the other as he writhed like the best sprightly New Wave bass players of the past. Joules Scott-Key's accompaniment on a rather spare drum kit was solid and active, featuring spry fills that kept the songs dynamic.
After a perky version of "Speed the Collapse," the set slowed down for the brief, minimalist "Dreams So Real." Its bombastic, dense synth melody and Haine's anthemic lyrics make it one of the more compelling entries in the Metric catalog. Haines sampled herself with the mantra "I shut up and carry on," which detracted a bit from the song's deliberate power but also kept the pace brisk.
Then it was off to a real sing-a-long with "Empty" of Metric's 2005 album Live Out Loud. Haines led the crowd with a little call and response, telling them "Let me hear you," followed by a "bop, bah-dah, bop." She threw out a few calls to "Miami," as the song shifted into a low-key groove. Shaw teased "Artificial Noctourne" revealing how his guitar playing has evolved from pummeling to intricate over the years.
The, twisting, near-prog-quality of "Empty" then gave way to another crowd favorite, "Help, I'm Alive." This song again featured audience participation as Haines hammered her fist at the crowd in the pit, and they hammered back at her for the "beating like a hammer" chorus.
After three more songs from Synthetica, the band capped off its set with a medley of songs from its official first album, 2003's Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?.
After barreling through elements of "Dead Disco," "IOU," and "Succexy" reconfigured as a rather indulgent, though sometimes dull, jam session, the band walked off to feedback, leaving a synth to play a pulsing, terse melody. After a couple of minutes of the elecro-pulse, and they returned for the inevitable encore tearing into a kinetic version of "Gold Guns Girls."
After a rather exuberant solo from Shaw, the usually chatty Haines offered up a few words to the Miami audience: "My favorite thing about sharing the stage with these guys is that it brings me into this family of people all over the world. Like, I go to Miami, and I'm, like, 'Hey, guys. How you've been, man?'" The statement sent the crowd into a frenzy. "It's incredible," she continued. "It's such a beautiful, psychic, magical thing that I feel, and we're honored to share it with you guys, so thank you for this night."
Then she noted some "very exciting news. We've had the honor of playing this incredible venue before, but today when we went backstage, Jimmy's up on the wall, all with the other guitar players, and there's Jimmy," she said to a swell of cheers. "Jimmy Shaw made the Fillmore wall! What's up?! So, steady as she goes, aye, kids. Steady as she goes," she advised.
And, as it turns out, you can watch the show for yourself on line. Visit the Bud Light Music First page on Myspace.
Personal Bias: If I had to choose which of the 50 bands I wanted to see in Miami, it would have been the Flaming Lips.
Overheard in the Crowd: "She's a firecracker." "She's angelic." "She's a canary."
-"Youth Without Youth"
-"Speed the Collapse"
-"Dreams So Real"
-"Help, I'm Alive"
-Medley: "Dead Disco"/"IOU"/"Succexy"
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-"Gold Guns Girls"
-"Gimme Sympathy (acoustic)"
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @indieethos.