Falling In Love With Metric In Los Angeles REVIEW+PHOTOS: Metric at The Wiltern 10/6/22
LOS ANGELES, CA- I guess after almost three years, I’m not the recluse I thought I was because when I saw Metric was on tour and bringing their latest studio effort Formentera to The Wiltern in Los Angeles, I thought it would be good for me to get out of my 2nd story shit-show of an apartment in East Hollywood. “I need to do laundry and fight the evil hordes of baby roaches,” would be an understatement. My place has become a landfill and a small part of me is worried it’s a reflection of my inner state. Or, maybe I’ve just been a lazy slob. I’ve been on the road a lot for work and it’s a little hard to tell.
It’s also strange because, I’m not even a big Metric fan [I am now that I’ve seen them live] and I do this for the love of live music, of getting a few solid shots my much younger 22-year-old self would have been proud of, and – proving to myself – I haven’t quite hung up my lenses just yet. With me looking 2 years down the barrel of 50 years old, I’m not sure why I’m in the back of an Uber hoping I don’t get Covid again before my next day job as a stage manager for a company out of Amsterdam. I fly to Newark on Monday.
It’s been a while since I’ve photographed anything with any real substance and I guess I want Metric to be that substance tonight. I suppose if I get out and hear Emily Haines’ sinister lyrics sung with her innocent women-on-the-edge voice, I may actually enjoy myself. It’s hard to believe she and I are the same age. She still emanates such a youthfulness that I wonder where I went wrong.
Cramming for the show while making our way up Wilshire Boulevard, I’m 2 songs deep into Formentera and I think, damn, “Doomscroller” is scrappy, ominous, and parts of it sound like a lost track from Pretty Hate Machine. It could score a scene in a Danny Boyle film – a really fucking violent one. However, it has its own identity even if it stands on the shoulders of Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, or even Portishead and Garbage – it’s unique and there’s an evolution from hard, synthy-pop, dramatic, lyrically punk-poetic punchiness to this gentle, acoustic, sad-but-hopeful ending that’s surprising and unexpectedly fitting. It goes from digital to natural and there’s a message in not just the lyrics, but in the orchestration of the music. That message is “Don’t give up yet, don’t give up yet” – lyrics buried so deep in the track, one might think it’s some repetitive sound effect, but it’s an affirmation. It’s a declaration.
That’s a hard transition to pull off effectively, but Metric proves to be more than capable.
Emily takes the stage in a shimmering mini-skirt fit for New Year’s Eve while James Shaw is doing his best Bob Dylan impression with a backcountry fedora and denim shirt when they dive right into “Doomscroller” Hearing it live elevates the experience and whatever casual relationship I had with their music just got serious.
The fourth song on their setlist, “All Comes Crashing”, leans toward the softer side of Metric, but then… comes raging in with the might of a mob of angry goths and I wonder how many audio effects have been layered on, like icing a cake meant to poison any guest of honor. It’s brash but melodic and Joules Scott-Key’s drumming blended with Joshua Winstead’s precision-perfect bass playing has all the shuffling and chops that make for a groove and cadence that makes even the strictest wallflower want to dance.
I’m glad I’m outside, in the world, experiencing Metric, a band I just didn’t know enough about. Considering this Canadian post-punk, indie-rock, industrial-friendly, melodic new-wave band has been around since 1998 when they were known as Mainstream when I was leaving film school 6 language credits short of a bachelor’s degree, you’d think I’d be more hip to them. Tonight, I finally am.
By the time Metric dives into “Combat Baby”, off of 2003’s Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, the audience is under Haines’ spell, everyone chanting the anthemic title with unison and joy. Seeing her live, her blonde ponytail swinging through the hazy blue and pink light, and her gentle, but brave voice washing over the audience; it’s challenging and comforting. She projects a moon-size level of confidence and she’s clearly in love with music and that makes us fall in love with her.
Metric caps the evening off with “Gimme Sympathy” from their fourth studio album, 2009’s Fantasies, and it’s so celebratory and springy that I don’t want the performance to end. It’s such a catchy anti-pop “pop” song that I realize how Metric has successfully blended every genre of contemporary music with absolute finesse and generosity. Maybe that’s a strange way to put it, but their music is generous. It’s committed and there’s so much poetry in the lyrics and a perfect balance of aggression and tenderness in the sound, that all of it is this kaleidoscope of emotions.
Formentera feels like a complete story to me. It’s filled with political incantations, personal reflections, and a sort of dreamy blend of everything I love about elevated pop music: experimentation, confidence, experience, curiosity, familiarity, and punchy hooks that are engaging, endearing, and fun. Metric shares that vast music space with the likes of The Joy Formidable, Phantogram, and Wolf Alice. What’s not to love?
I’ve listened to Metric on and off over the years and was never a huge fan, but after getting to hear them live, photograph them, and now write about them, I’m in love with them. An experience becomes heightened through a lens. It gets a bit more personal when you research it, learn about the people behind it, and write about it. My only regret is I didn’t give Metric the attention they deserved until now. A friend once told me that discovering a band new to you can be like falling in love. I’m glad to know I still can.