If she wanted to, Emily Haines of Metric could start an outright riot. I witnessed her come close to inciting a riot in March of 2004 at Nashville’s Exit/In, when Haines had so much command of the frenzied audience that she was able to pull us back from the edge. That show became the standard by which I’ve judged all subsequent Metric shows, as well as how I’ve rated all other performers’ stage presence (i.e., “It wasn’t like he was Emily Haines up there, but he kept our attention”).
By Haines’ design, the crowd at La Zona Rosa in Austin on December 1, 2009 was not as frantic as the 2004 Nashville show. Yet as she gyrated and twisted across the stage dressed in gold, the audience remained in the palm of her hand with every one of our synchronized fist pumps.
Every night, Metric gives everything they have to make their audience experience the best show ever performed. Their performances are typically a sermon about living in excess, yet refrain from coming off as preachy. Their breed of New Wave dance-pop shouldn’t have any depth at all if they were playing to type — one in the audience will ask himself if the others in the crowd understand the meaning of the opening number, “Twilight Galaxy,” about not living life to meet anyone’s expectations (“She’s singing to me, dammit”). And by the second song of the show, “Help, I’m Alive,” it is clear that Haines was willing to give each and every audience member a piece of her heart — and we’re gladly willing to take it.
Coming into La Zona Rosa with a set list comprised mainly from their Fantasies album, Metric’s show now comes off as more personal than mere ironic commentary, which gives the performances of older songs from Live it Out (like “Handshakes” and “Empty”) even more depth as the sweat flings from Emily’s golden locks. Haines even broke her set to tell the locals how lucky they are to live in Austin, with its support of local and independent music. The state of the industry weighs heavily on the band with their DIY approach to making music.
There wasn’t much in the show for the older fans (ahem), but the dynamic performance of “Dead Disco” reminded us why we fell in love with Metric in the first place.
For the encore, Haines darted to the stage for a raucous rendition of “Monster Hospital.” To play out old and new alike, the show closed with Emily and guitarist James Shaw performing an acoustic version of the staple “Combat Baby.” The audience was happy to lend their own vocals, to which Haines herself was taken aback.
Metric has earned each fan one by one over the decade, and each performance is a personal message to every person in the crowd. And we’re all willing to show Metric how much we love them back, which is why Emily Haines could get us to riot…
If she wanted to.