Metric is a band made for the big stage. You wouldn’t know it from their background, as a term like “Canadian indie rock group” often equals total obscurity when crossing the border.
But, somehow Metric has found success outside their home country. As their set at Chicago’s Vic Theatre on Thursday showed, they can not only handle playing to large crowds, but excel at the task as well. Unlike opening act Bear In Heaven – who’s introspective, headphones-ready sound felt underwhelming and a tad minuscule on the Vic’s massive stage – Metric displayed an understanding of how to pull a massive audience into a cohesive, spellbound unit.
The group’s swelling, potent pop sound did wonders at the Vic, as Metric faithfully performed songs from their growing discography to a “t.” The cathartic build-up to the chorus of “Help I’m Alive” saw the quartet pull full-steam ahead, as frontwoman Emily Haines took the group by the reins. As charismatic a leading lady as any rocker, she knew how to approach the stage, her bandmates and the crowd just right. Not too over the top, not too bland, a nice hint of passion and plenty of musical dexterity: A potent bit of rock chemistry for putting on a good show.
And Metric certainly understands how to play the “rock band” role. Perform the hits (“Sick Muse,” “Gimme Sympathy,” etc), sprinkle the stage banter with the name of the town you’re playing (“hello Chicago”), stick the encore. Aside from an awkward employment of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right” in the middle of a low-key ditty, it was a solid rendition of the rock ‘n roll role we all expect from rock stars that play big theaters.
It wasn’t until Haines and guitarist James Shaw performed an acoustic rendition of “Combat Baby” during the encore that the curtain of rock mystique fell and revealed many of the reasons why Metric has become so popular: Even though they’re a band with an arena ready sound, they can strip their songs down to its stark, intimate elements and reveal more heart than the type of rock cliche gloss usually parlayed on big stages. It’s good to see someone is keeping the heart of rock beating under the bright lights.