I saw Metric last night, by which I mean just now, and I want to get some thoughts down while I’m still, you know, on fire.
I was mainly looking forward to “The Shade,” and it turned out to be way beyond anything I could have imagined. I mean, they played it straight, but for whatever reason the impact of it was totally unreal. I was seriously tensing up like my life was on the line. Emily Haines had a bit about how the “I want it all” part means the thing it clearly means and not the stupid thing that you’d have to be an idiot to think it means, which was obviously unnecessary, but that straightforwardness is part of why Metric is important. The fact that they’re all electronic-y now isn’t any kind of angle or maneuver, it’s just how they’re writing songs at this particular point in time. They did “Cascades,” for example, which is currently their most robotronic song, and they kind of played it up visually, but it wasn’t a “departure” in any way. This whole theme was established right away when they opened with “I.O.U.,” the first track off of their first (released) album. This wasn’t a throwback; they had the usual amount of weighting towards new stuff, though Haines threw in some a capella bits from “Hustle Rose” and “Combat Baby,” seemingly just for the hell of it. The point is that Metric has been fighting the same war all along. They’re one of the few bands around that feels definitively not lost, like there actually is a good future out there and they know what direction it’s in.
They did a group sing-along version of “Dreams So Real,” which actually worked. I mean, this is L.A., so at best half the people anywhere are going to be a bunch of blasé tourist assholes, but people were singing and I felt the ley lines of connection that really do exist beneath the filth-strewn surface of this garbage planet. And that’s the point: it’s a given right now that probably like 75% of the world is just dead gray nihilistic nonsense, so given that, what are you going to do about it? “Who wants to celebrate and who’s just fine to sit and wait?” Maybe this sounds easy, but it’s actually a problem for me. I’m a negative person, and while I consider my stance to be both valid and justified, that isn’t enough. If I actually hate banality more than I love the truth, then I’m a literal nihilist. I can’t allow that to be the case.
The big surprise was that they didn’t do “Stadium Love,” which is one of their big mission statement songs (they also gave up “Dead Disco,” so let it not be said that they aren’t moving forward). This is normally an extremely effective song; it’s powerful enough to completely destroy even a moderately large venue. But it was clear that the reason they didn’t do it was because they didn’t need to: that message was implicit in everything else they did. They’ve got an unbelievable range; they can build up the drama on “Artificial Nocturne,” tear it apart with “Too Bad, So Sad,” hold the tension in “Twilight Galaxy,” and bring it home with the now-traditional “campfire” version of “Gimme Sympathy.” They closed with “Breathing Underwater,” which was, as Haines pointed out, bittersweet, and as a result ultimately didn’t allow for cheap catharsis. Last time I saw them, on the tour for Synthetica, Haines said at the end of the show that she felt like the cowboy from The Big Lebowski. It’s certainly true right now that Metric abides, but given the current situation, it’s not really okay for us to merely take comfort in that fact. That’s why they’re giving it everything, and why they want us to feel the same.