Despite boasting a roster that overlaps with that of Broken Social Scene, Canadian quartet Metric have spent the last decade amassing a dedicated but modestly-sized fan base. Their previous albums have garnered plenty of critical acclaim but little airplay, and their new release Fantasies made it to #76 on the Billboard Top 200 but stopped short of making the band an indie-household name. And so it was that Metric, buried beneath headlining acts The Black Keys and Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the FM 94/9 Independence Jam, proceeded to blow both of those bands away.
Dressed in an all-white ensemble—including a microscopic pair of cutoffs that generously showed off the best legs in indie rock—and sporting a mane of bleached blond hair, Emily Haines exuded the stylish cool of a young Debbie Harry. The outdoor stage, positioned on the beach with the Pacific glimmering behind it and flocks of seagulls flying overhead, may have seemed ill-suited for the band’s moody, futuristic tones, but Metric’s brilliantly executed performance proved a fitting soundtrack to the gorgeous SoCal afternoon.
Easing into the set with an extended version of “Twilight Galaxy”, the band piled layer after layer around Joules Scott-Key’s brisk, palpitating drumbeat. It was an assured beginning to what would be a relaxed but captivating set: the band in no apparent hurry, clearing each song’s hurdles with confidence and ease. “Satellite Mind” upped the pace to a jog, with guitarist James Shaw’s tight riffs sharpened by Haines’ gleaming synth lines. Every note was tastefully marinated in an array of effects, resulting in a thrillingly unique and perfectly mixed sonic onslaught.
Though “Sick Muse” is one of Fantasies’ highlights, its live performance proved a rare stumbling block for the band. Haines’ reticent demeanor worked against her during the song’s chorus, with her sheepish delivery—she appeared to have forgotten the lyrics—depleting the hooky refrain of its joyous energy. But all was forgiven as they began to play “Gimme Sympathy”; with its half-cooed, half-spoken chorus, the song recalled 2003’s Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, and allowed Haines’ confidence to return in full force.
The band formally dipped into Old World Underground with their performance of “Dead Disco”, that album’s ballad of musical dissatisfaction. The song’s complaint that “All we get is dead disco, dead funk, dead rock and roll” was clearly not a sentiment shared by fans in the crowd, who sang along enthusiastically. Metric also checked back into “Monster Hospital”, their furious single from 2005’s Live It Out, before hammering out their current hit, “Help I’m Alive”. The band capped their set with the anthem “Stadium Love”, which was bolstered by a fist-pumping chorus and the tight interplay between Haines’ synth and Shaw’s guitar.
Describing their new album in between songs, Haines stated that the band had sought to make a perfect summer album: something you could blast from your car with your sunglasses on and the windows rolled down. It was an odd mission statement from a band best known for crafting dark, moody synth-pop with a political bent. But by the time they wrapped up their performance, the idea made complete sense. The compositions may have dark undertones, but Metric rocked the stage with enough propellant attitude to send their songs soaring higher than the seagulls that circled above.