To be honest, I wasn’t really excited for this show. I like Metric well enough to have seen them a few times before, but their newest album just doesn’t do it for me. If something can be described as “electronic synth pop,” I think it’s a safe bet that I won’t like it.
Now someone will point out that term could be used to describe all of Metric’s music, maybe, and I like an awful lot of it, including their previous album, Synthetica. So I don’t know. All’s I know is lots of bands I like are moving toward a new sound and it’s the same sound and it’s one I don’t care for. But I like enough older Metric stuff that when Mika asked if I wanted to go, I was quick to agree – especially when she got our coveted Row L For Legroom end seats.
I didn’t know at the time that Death Cab For Cutie was also on this tour. I’ve never heard much of their stuff, and what I have hasn’t inspired me to seek out more. Just not my thing. Probably an age thing – I was too old to be paying attention when they first came along and I never bothered to make an effort. Everyone I know who likes them is five to ten years younger than me. But I know they’re a big deal and I was surprised to see that they were playing before Metric.
Really, my #1 Death Cab memory comes from the days of the Delphi boards:
Albert: (mentions “DCFC” when talking music)
someone: “What’s DCFC?”
Albert: “Death Cab For Cutie! One of my favorite bands!”
Scott: “Death Cab For Cutie! One of Albert’s favorite bands! I think they suck!”
Not that funny, but I don’t know. I’ve forgotten lots of great chattery material but that one has stuck with me since day one. Maybe that’s why I never got into Death Cab. Afraid of what Scott might think.
We got to the Conexus Arts Centre in time to enjoy our legroom for 6:45, the bizarre stated start time on the tickets. And at 6:45:01, the lights dimmed. We got three bands tonight, no time to mess around.
With the vast majority of fans not yet in attendance, the openers were Leisure Cruise. They are from Brooklyn. I know this because they said so. I know nothing else about them except their lead singer took the stage wearing a coat that appeared to be made out of fifty pounds of silver Christmas tinsel. Mika said she kind of wanted it. I will not get it for her. Carl spends too much time trying to get our attention by pulling coats down as it is.
In front of a giant screen and what appeared to be two giant white beachballs with stuff projected onto them, Leisure Cruise played electronic pop that made them a good fit as openers for Metric. Nothing I ran out to buy or anything, but it was fine. I have nothing else to say about that.
I can pretty much review Death Cab by saying that I went into their set not giving a shit about them, and I left not giving a shit about them, but they were much better than I had given them credit for. They played two songs I recognized, both about hearts. Ultimately still not my thing, but clearly very talented and the crowd loved them – they got a standing ovation and fans were really disappointed there was no encore. It was obvious that people saw them as the big stars of the evening. There wasn’t a huge number of people who left right after Death Cab were done, but there were some – and people trickled out throughout Metric’s performance.
Between sets, I went exploring and briefly ran into Mark and Other James. Mark gushed over Death Cab so maybe they’re the best and there’s just something wrong with me?
So yeah, Metric ran the risk of being upstaged by their co-headliners. When they took the stage, they almost had to beg people to stand up and get into the show. And it didn’t help that the sound seemed better for Death Cab than for Metric – they buried Emily Haines’ vocals to a degree.
But once they got going, the show was a lot of fun. The new songs worked a lot better for me in the live setting and there were lots of older songs that I knew well and enjoyed. Mika said she thought the newer material worked better than the older stuff, and I can see where she’s coming from. They mixed up the old stuff a lot – but I’d rather hear that than just note-for-note renditions of the album versions. And the staging was great – probably the best light show I’ve ever seen at a rock show. Apologies to anyone who had to sit through my Instagram flood that night – but you didn’t even get to see the confetti cannons.
Not that everything worked. Fans who bought VIP tickets were invited on stage to serve as a chorus backing the song Dreams So Real. I know that nobody buys music anymore and you’ve gotta make your money where you can. So I understand offering VIP packages where people can pay more to meet the band, watch the soundcheck, get exclusive stuff, or just get fancy parking or something. But inviting people on stage… I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. Some of those folks looked terrified. It’s an experiment that was worth trying but probably not repeating.
But that was one song in a long night of music. By and large, the show was a good time and the evening exceeded my expectations. Really, all three bands wound up better than I thought they’d be. And after twenty minutes of sitting here trying to come up with a better conclusion than that, I’m going to accept that I don’t have one and just be done with this.
Shit. Four behind again. I said I wouldn’t let this happen but procrastination wins the day. Shit shit shit.
If you pay attention to that UPCOMING CONCERTS blurb that I sometimes post at the end of these, you might notice that we skipped out on Dan Mangan and Plants & Animals. The weather has not been kind and I’ve been lazy. I still feel a bit bad about missing Dan Mangan; Mark went and posted a video of the song Robots (which is great) and it looked like a super fun show. I think he only posted this to make me feel bad about wimping out. Mission accomplished, sir. I’m glad he didn’t go to Plants & Animals or I’d feel bad about that one too.
It’s still cold and I’m still lazy, but Mika wasn’t about to miss out on Metric. I like them a lot as well – we accidentally bought two copies of their new album, Synthetica – but her more so. I don’t think this is exclusively because her score for her vocal performance of Combat Baby in Rock Band has been described as “untouchable,” but she does seem pleased by that.
I’d only seen Metric once before, at the Odeon in Saskatoon, seven years ago. Now they’re playing the Brandt Centre, Regina’s big hockey arena, which is a step up. Of course, Regina is a step down, but I think this would still be a net positive.
I was a little concerned that the hockey arena wasn’t the best venue. Apart from the recurring issue of the acoustics in a hockey arena, I really have no sense of how big Metric is. They’ve been around for a while, and I’ve seen American websites talking about them. Did they become enormously huge rock stars when I wasn’t looking? Or were they just playing the Brandt Centre because of Regina’s relative lack of concert space? I saw Weird Al in a hockey arena many years ago, and while the crowd wasn’t embarrassing (um… at least in quantity), having 75% of the seats unfilled did take away from the atmosphere. You really do need to match the attraction to the venue.
I’d peg the crowd at being somewhere around 3,000-4,000. The floor and most of the lower level was full, and there was barely anyone on the upper level. A very respectable turnout. We were decidedly among the older people at the show, though I’m pretty sure that we’re younger than anyone in either of the bands. I’d say 75% of the audience was made up of young punk hooligans in inappropriate clothing. I don’t think I’m a prude, though; just practical. If you’re going to wear a midriff-exposing tanktop outside in weather that’s well below freezing, you must be really committed to smoking. I wouldn’t even pull my loved ones out of the way of a speeding car without putting on a jacket first.
The opening act was Stars, lending credence to the idea that Metric had become way more famous than I’d thought. Before the show, I’d have guessed that Metric and Stars were at about the same level of popularity. Mika is probably reading this and shaking her head. What can I say? I don’t pay attention to things anymore. I don’t have to. I’m old and thus justified in my refusal to acknowledge change.
I saw Stars at the Regina Folk Festival this summer, where they weren’t my thing. Of course, the whole festival wasn’t my thing so I was looking forward to seeing them again to see if I liked them any better in another setting. I did not. Part of this may have been the venue’s fault, or the sound mix – the vocals were really muddy and drowned out. But it may just be the case that Stars are not really my thing. Other, similar bands are my thing. It’s just how it goes.
Metric, evidently, is my thing, as they tore the roof off the place, putting on one of the best shows of the year. I suppose that stands to reason since they played pretty much all of Synthetica, which is one of the best albums that I’ve heard this year (which is, admittedly, drawing from a pretty small pool). The only song I know they didn’t play was The Void, which I am pretty familiar with because it’s been on CBC Radio 3 (which results in Mika playing it in the car) and because it starts off with a very close approximation of Strong Bad’s lightswitch rave music.
From previous albums, I only noted a few songs, including the singles Monster Hospital and Help I’m Alive. I like Monster Hospital a lot and was hoping they’d play it. Then they played it (either as the last pre-encore song or the first one after, I forget which) and I immediately decided that I liked the newer stuff better, which is the opposite of pretty much every concert I’ve been to. So fickle.
I thought the sound was better for Metric than for Stars, but it’s not really a fair comparison. Metric’s music is much less acoustic (with one notable exception) and was a fair bit louder overall. You wouldn’t notice a lack of clarity so much.
There was a big lighting setup on stage behind the band, with a grid of segmented lights blinking on and off. The overall look reminded me of a digital alarm clock. And then as soon as the band left the stage, the lights switched to a clock showing 2:30, signaling two minutes and thirty seconds until the beginning of the encore. And indeed, the band retook the stage as soon as the clock hit zero. I hate the artificiality of the encore and while I’ve seen bands make jokes about that, the on-stage countdown clock blatantly showing just how precisely the break was timed was a new and neat idea.
After a fun show, they closed out the evening with an acoustic version of the song Gimme Sympathy – just an acoustic guitar, Emily Haines’ voice, and a crowd that she repeatedly encouraged to sing along. It was a fun way to end the show, and I was glad to get a different version of that specific song. The album version was used in a commercial for the Ontario Media Development Corporation; somehow, Mika and I both misremembered this as being an ad for some online school, so we’d hear the first notes of the album version and make jokes about how the song made us feel like signing up for courses. Point being, the album version of the song has kinda been spoiled for us, so it was nice to get something different. And I don’t see this joke dying off just because it isn’t that good and we were completely wrong – that’s just not how we roll.