Metric: 20 May 2010 – Chicago

Upon a stage bathed in soft blue light, the members of Metric slowly took position behind their instruments and started the evening with “Twilight Galaxy”, a song from last year’s album, Fantasies. The moody, slower tempo, synth driven track seemed an odd choice to open the night with, until it suddenly erupted into a cacophony of light and intensity during the final minute of the song. The band then stayed with the slick, pop leanings of the Fantasies album for the next handful of songs, and the rest of the night followed suit. The tracks “Satellite Mind” and “Front Row”, both brought lead singer Emily Haines out from behind the keys with a mic in hand to work the front of the stage. The upbeat “Help I’m Alive” sounded enormous with its pounding drums and tight power chords.

The band finally dipped into some older material with the track “Empty”, from 2005’s Live it Out. But the nostalgia was short lived as they immediately followed with another pair of songs from Fantasies. The latest record has definitely marked a shift in direction for the band, one that seeks a bigger, more anthemic pop sound and also seems destined for larger audiences. A move which will always develop detractors among older fans. Both the set list and performance backed this movement towards a bigger sound, and the sold out crowd and their response may prove it has already achieved its goal. But there are still some kinks to sort out with these huge pop anthems and looming stadium sized success. It plays well on some tracks, like the extremely infectious “Sick Muse”, but falls dull and flat on a track like “Gold Guns Girls” and the Neil Young teaser of “Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)” before the band’s own “Gimme Sympathy”, which was overly tacky and would be better suited in the hands of a band like Kiss.

Truth be told, however, the sold out audience appeared to lap up every note thrown their way, and lead singer Emily Haines is most likely to blame. With her blonde hair perpetually falling across her face, she donned an unassuming t-shirt and shimmering skirt as she head banged, jumped and danced her way across every inch of the stage, and all from atop a pair of high heeled boots. Her saccharine sounding vocals should belie the harder presence she sometimes wears on stage, but she manages to convince just enough on both ends of the spectrum to make it all work in her favor.

After an evening of huge flashing lights and big rock numbers, it all ended on a softer note. With an acoustic rendition of “Combat Baby”, from 2003’s Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, which even had Haines putting down her mic to allow the audience to pick up the singing. While the set was short, it was extremely high on energy and entertainment, and there is little fault to be found in that.