Metric: 14 June 2009 - Chicago

From the moment she touched the mic, Emily Haines owned the crowd.



City: Chicago
Venue: Metro Theatre
Date: 2009-06-14

It should be noted that I was not feeling too hot as I approached Chicago’s Metro Theatre for Metric’s sold out show on Sunday June 14. The lingering effects of the Chicago Cubs rooftop from the day before, coupled with a crazed night, weighed me down as I shuffled into the jammed venue. I’ve always been an unabashed Broken Social Scene fan, and the many splintered projects of the Canadian Arts and Crafts scene. But something about Metric had never really clicked with me until the release of the band’s latest album, Fantasies. After a four year recording hiatus, the record feels personal and lived in, rather than a continuation of the band’s early, new wave deconstructionist approach towards indie rock. My friend J and I fought through the crowd for a decent spot, but the place was such a crowded sweatbox that we could barely move. A true Metric fan, J kept trying to pump me up, telling me how crazy cool Emily Haines is in the live environment, and after checking my preconceived notions at the door, I remained skeptical. As I chugged water, I couldn’t help but think it would take something miraculous to change my thinking about Metric. And then Emily Haines and Co. took the stage, the houselights flooded the stage red, and palpable electricity overtook the venue. From the moment she touched the mic, Haines owned the crowd, and I was entranced.

The slow, synth driven burn of “Twilight Galaxy” off Fantasies opened the set, and established the perfect mood for the night. “Did they tell you / You should grow up / When you wanted to dream / Did they warn you / Better shape up / If you want to succeed.” This is some of Haines finest songwriting, proof that her pre-album sojourn to Buenos Aires sparked a revitalization of soul and a renewed belief in her songwriting craft. Fantasies, while never losing the pomp and swagger of previous releases, is deceptively nuanced and tortured. The lyrics speak of self-doubt and love lost, and the desperate need to find a life that doesn’t exist in current circumstances. A key to the album’s success is the mood, which is never dour or shoegaze. Onstage, Haines brought the album’s best tracks to life. Fantasies best track, the single “Help I’m Alive”, opens with industrial drums pounding over Haines’ mock vulnerability “I tremble / They’re gonna eat me alive / If I stumble.” Ultimately, the song reveals itself as a veiled tribute to empowerment and the joy of realizing you’re alive again, and that duality manifested itself in Haines performance.

Onstage, Haines played the quiet, coy chanteuse, her blond locks and delicate beauty reminiscent of a 21st century Nico. A second later, she would shake out her hair and become a riot grrrl of the highest order. A natural born rock star, Haines knew how to never overplay her hand, taking time out to playfully banter with the crowd. “I’ve really missed Chicago. Sorry it took so long to make the album,” she quipped after a frenzied rendition of “Gold Guns Girls”, aided greatly by the excellent musicianship of guitarist James Shaw and bassist Josh Winstead. The band was extremely tight, never missing a beat, but my eyes never left Haines. True, she is beautiful, and yes, she has an incredible voice. But there was an aura about her, similar to seeing a rock legend like Keith or Mick, a magnetic cool that just belongs onstage. As Haines ponders in the rave up “Gimme Sympathy”, who would you rather be -- The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? The answer is pretty clear. Haines is pretty damn cool with being herself, and that shines through clearly on Fantasies and in her live performance.

After a fan favorite encore of “Monster Hospital” and “Live it Out” Metric left the stage after a group bow. With the house lights on, the crowd was sweaty, exhausted, and smiling. I realized that I had hardly stopped moving the entire show, my notebook empty after the first couple songs. Well, I guess I was converted, and as I chatted with Haines a week later for a PopMatters interview, I spoke with her as a fan, not just a journalist.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.