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Review: Metric brings theatrics to McDonald Theater

In the course of its 20-year history, Canadian electro-rock band Metric has released six studio albums and toured globally, but the group had never played in Eugene until this year for its latest release, Pagans in Vegas.

Consequently, lead singer Emily Haines asked the audience for song suggestions during Metric’s Feb. 20 show at the McDonald Theater. Her request was met with an overwhelming response, which made it impossible to discern even one song title.

In retort, Haines said, “Sometimes, you don’t get what you want. And to that I say, ‘too bad, too sad,” which just so happens to be a track off Pagans.

Wearing shiny black leather from head to toe, she could be seen as standoffish, but as a whole, Metric is a band that plays for the audience. Sticking to the most memorable songs from the group’s prolific discography, Haines said the show was like a time-travel trip, but only if the audience was along for the ride.

  • Metric adds glowing visuals to their set (Meerah Powell/Emerald)

After a smooth opening set from Joywave — which included a brand new song from the upcoming “Alice Through the Looking Glass” — Metric jumped into their set with a slew of its synth-heavy pop hits. During the existential love track “Help I’m Alive,” Haines left the comfort of her gem-covered synth stand, pumping her fist into the air as waves of smoke rolled over the audience.

The energy was high as drummer Joules Scott-Key and bassist Joshua Winstead smoothly rolled from track to track. In her signature high-patched voice that is equal parts mousy and confident, Haines sang about regret, heartbreak and at moments, a glimmer of hope and desire.

Taking a break from more upbeat tracks, Haines invited the whole audience to sing along to an acoustic version of “Dreams so Real” with guitarist James Shaw. It was a sweet moment, but overshadowed by the cheesiness of a song with the lines “Our parents, daughters, and sons/Believed in the power of songs/What if those days are gone?”

It’s this artificialness that keeps Metric from the ranks of more revered indie-rock stars like Death Cab For Cutie or Arcade Fire. The group’s theatrical performances make it an enjoyable act to see: Haines wore not one, but two different capes during the show. But while the band’s music is infectiously danceable, beneath the catchy synth tracks, there often isn’t much depth.

Consequently, the moments when the band stripped down felt off, from an Acapella version of “Combat Baby” to an acoustic version of the overly nostalgic “Gimme Sympathy.”

Metric succeeded when it embraced its pop-rock sound, as on “Breathing Underwater,” the triumphant end to its set. Over lush electronic melodies, Haines sang about being lost somewhere in the middle of happiness and sadness.

Leaving equipment behind, the band stood together before the audience at the end of the song, the only instrument drummer Scott-Key’s sticks clicking to the beat. But it was only a short glimpse into the group’s vulnerability. After a quick bow, they left the stage unceremoniously, the buzz of the song still ringing.

This story was written by guest contributor Hannah Steinkopf-Frank.

Listen to “Help, I’m Alive” by Metric below.


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