Review: Metric; November 24, 2009; Mr. Smalls Theater, Pittsburgh

Metric - Mr. Smalls Theater

Speaking from experience, mid-week concerts are usually not most bands’ best outings. The crowd is usually thin and attendees worry about how much sleep they’ll get before work.

Emily Haines - MetricAs a result, my expectations going into the Metric show were lukewarm at best. To my surprise, as I pulled up to Mr. Smalls Theater, I saw the marquee lit with a big SOLD OUT across the front. Sold out? On a Tuesday? In Pittsburgh? A city known for its voracious appetite for sports and sandwiches, not music?

At this point my excitement finally started to build. I entered the venue (an old converted church) and heard Band of Skulls playing their brand of dirty blues/garage rock. I paused to watch them briefly before I began to yearn for a $4.50 bottle of Yuengling beer and headed to the bar. By the time my first beer was down the hatch, Band of Skulls had completed their set to respectful applause.

Emily Haines - MetricIn the crowd, a surprising nervous energy grew as Metric’s sound check went on and on. Diehard fans jockeyed for positions up front, while the over-21 crowd remained content behind their booze-based barrier. The house lights finally dimmed, and when Emily Haines appeared and the band opened up with “Twilight Galaxy”, the crowd let out a welcoming roar. Haines’ stage presence is undeniable; she emanates rock confidence as she strolls from one song to another, bouncing around on stage as if on a pixie stick sugar high. Conversely, guitarist James Shaw (who also plays the theremin) and bassist Josh Winstead seemed a bit jaded onstage. The band’s overall energy seemed to wane after the show’s climax, an extended version of “Empty”, in which the song was beautifully built up to an all-out rock and roll explosion, sending the crowd into a euphoric applause.

In sum, Metric put on a decent mid-week show for the sold-out crowd. For the most part, I’d imagine that everyone felt they’d rocked out properly. However, the set lacked the consistency that Metric is capable of delivering. The energy in the crowd—as well as among band members—took a dive mid-set and did not recover. Once the crowd was lost, the wind was obviously gone from the band’s sails. To her credit, Haines’ enthusiasm, style, and voice never wavered, and although I’m sure she’d admit it wasn’t her best night, her bad nights are probably better than most performers’ good nights. Although the new material is a departure, Metric’s songs like “Empty”, “Dead Disco”, and “Handshakes” always remind me why I fell for them in the first place. That, and Emily Haines’ gorgeousness.

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