Metric @ The Roundhouse, Feb 1st 2023
If you're a fan of Metric, it's a little surprising to come across them playing in such a relatively intimate venue as London's Roundhouse. The multiple Juno award winners and three-time Polaris Album of the Year nominees (Canada's equivalent of the Mercury Music Prize) seem like they should be selling out stadiums, or at least filling venues like the O2. Who knows, perhaps back home in Canada they are – but here in Europe, on their current Doomscroller tour, the stops are decidedly on the smaller side.
Openers (and Columbia labelmates) Lo Moon were competent but bland, frontman Matt Lowell's Thom Yorke-esque falsetto a highlight as they rattled through half-a-dozen songs you'd be hard-pressed to recall the next day; Loveless, their first single, the only real standout.
Metric's latest album, 2022's Formentera, is something of a return to form after the disappointing Pagans in Vegas (2015) and the forgettable Art of Doubt (2018), and they have wisely packed their set with tracks taken from both the new album and their breakthrough, Fantasies (2009), while sprinkling in a handful of older songs for the hardcore fans that were present (including one audience member throwing rather incongruous devil's horns throughout). The crowd was equally diverse, with young and old represented fairly evenly – surprising for a band now entering their third decade, although with plenty of American accents in evidence perhaps it was an opportunity for expats to catch up with an old favourite.
After kicking off with the ten-and-a-half minute epic dance-rock of Doomscroller, the band ploughed through another half-a-dozen songs without pause. The rhythm section – bass player Josh Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key – has always been the heart of Metric's sound and were as tight as ever (even if the drum riser was in darkness for much of the set), while guitarist James Shaw swapped frequently between synths and guitar, although his occasional over-extended guitar solos felt unnecessary, indulgent and quite frankly underwhelming.
But it was charismatic singer Emily Haines that most of the crowd were focused on. The 49-year-old, who celebrated her birthday just last week, bounded around the stage like a woman half her age, blowing kisses to the multitude of camera phones as she bounced, shimmied and glittered through the band's best-loved tracks. Her breathy, slightly helium-infused voice hasn't lost any of its power after twenty years, and the showmanship of Haines and the rest of the band deserved a larger canvas than the Roundhouse's small stage could provide.
The problem Metric have always had is that, despite getting decidedly dancier over the years, their music is hard to dance to – they often pick a tempo that is just a little too slow for a crowd to really bounce along to, and so even on anthemic tunes like Help I'm Alive, Gimme Sympathy, Black Sheep, and set closer Breathing Underwater, the atmosphere felt somehow muted, the pent-up energy of the crowd denied the outlet of a full-on mosh pit. Still, you can't have everything.