With Sarah Jaffe and Hibou
The Bomb Factory, Dallas
Friday, November 20, 2015
Canadian synth pop stars Metric started their show at The Bomb Factory on Friday night in the dark. The recorded voice of what sounded like a goofy scientist from an ancient educational video said something about how the present can still affect the future and the future can affect the past. The band came out with flashlights and animal masks before frontwoman Emily Haines joined them with a space-age feather headdress that made her look like a Christmas tree and they launched into their set with “Lie Lie Lie,” the opening track from their latest album, Pagans in Vegas.
Led by Haines’ soprano voice, Metric has a commanding stage presence. Their sound and spectacle really showed off The Bomb Factory and brought in a crowd that filled the floor as well as a good chunk of the balcony. They played their songs flawlessly, mostly mimicking the way they appear on the albums, taking full advantage of The Bomb Factory's incredible sound. Gone were any sort of confrontational speeches from Haines. In fact, there were very few stops at all as Metric tore through a 90-minute set that involved several wardrobe changes.
The light show was insane, showing off what The Bomb Factory is capable of visually. For good measure, Metric brought a huge backdrop that looked like the Pyramide du Louvre to bring even more lights into the building. They had three bizarre synthesizers that looked like they were built out of disco balls and sheep's wool. Haines took off her Christmas tree garb as the band started “Youth Without Youth” from 2012’s Synthetica and then “Help I’m Alive” from 2009’s Fantasies. For “Cascades,” the band wore disco shades while Haines donned a neon green cape. Despite their ferocious pace, Metric barely seemed to break a sweat and Haines’ voice just seemed to get stronger. They played “Black Sheep,” which appears in the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and turned the energy up even further with “Satellite Mind” and “Sick Muse.” Finally they took a pause to compliment the venue and the local scene, before slowing things down with “Collect Call.”
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But then Haines was wearing a leather jacket and the band flew through “Monster Hospital.” From there, she put on another cape that glowed with glitter as the band played the title track from Synthetica and someone switched on a fog machine. Haines drew a huge reaction from the crowd with an a capella rendition of “Combat Baby” from 2003’s Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? James Shaw played the best guitar solo of the night during “Gold Gun Girls” and then they exited the stage after “The Shade.”
They came right back for an encore, however, the four-song set starting with “Empty,” the opening track from 2005’s Live It Out. They played a particularly long rendition of that song, which started out slow and sad before ascending into reckless abandon. “Gimme Sympathy” from the Plug in Plug Out EP was played with an electric guitar instead of acoustic with just Shaw and Haines. The band returned for “Breathing Underwater” and the show was over just after midnight. At the end of the day, Metric’s songs are structured like straightforward radio-friendly pop rock. Heck, almost every song title is the chorus. But this was a fun show and it was impossible to dismiss just how sharp their live show is after 15 years.
This was a diverse bill, with Sarah Jaffe on the stage about an hour before Metric started. It was clear that she was very comfortable playing in such a large room long before she said so and even joked about walking off the stage after playing a few songs. Damn that voice is strong and it completely filled up the venue. It was really the best thing we heard all night and there were plenty of people who seemed to be there to see her as much as Metric.
This version of Jaffe oscillated between sonic pop driven by synth beats and songs that positively rocked. There was nothing acoustic or Americana about this performance. Backed up by a three-piece band, she sang during the first song, picked up a guitar for the second and played bass on the third. In between songs she yelled things like, “Dallas you know you are my number one” and “You’re fucking awesome!” It would have been great to see her perform for an hour, but she was done after about 35 minutes.
Hibou (pronounced eee-booo) from Seattle started the show around 8:30. The band was visibly nervous and squeezed into the right-hand corner of the stage. With Metric’s stage set and equipment looming over them, they hung up a sheet with some tape and projected their name onto it. At one point, frontman Peter Michel even admitted that The Bomb Factory was by far the largest room they had ever played, which the crowd seemed to find adorable. With a surf rock sound like a sped-up version of Real Estate or perhaps Wild Nothing, they played a quick, enjoyable set.