Show Review: Metric at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Having to be sat down for this show was hell.

Metric are a band that are known for being wonderfully grandiose and unapologetically showy. Their performance always radiate a glorious and vibrant energy, as if the music itself is hardly able to be contained on stage. Metric aren’t necessarily writing the heaviest music right now, but by God, they do have some of the most powerful shows.

As the O2 went dark the band were played on by a cool riff on the main progression of (I believe) Artificial Nocturne. The riff acted as a sort of short opening prelude for the show, as the band spent little time reacquainting themselves with their gear and launching into the song. The aggressive droning tones of the songs introduction made for an unexpectedly terrific opener, and the echo on Emily’s voice in the O2 gave the songs opening minutes feel all the more grand and chilling – it totally caught me off guard, and was a perfect opener for the performance. The song immediately captured the attention of and subdued the entire audience, which made the eventual drop all the more exhilarating. After ecstaticly dancing around stage, Emily made her way over to her twin keyboards in the centre of the stage for the end climb of the song, totally going nuts and earning her reputation as the Queen of Synth.

Emily interrupted her own strutting during the first verse of Youth Without Youth, the second song they played, to have a heart-to-heart with the audience, asking the band to stop. After the music somewhat awkwardly came to a stop, Emily took the time to give a quick speech about London, and what the city meant to her. She reminisced on Metric’s past with the city, and mused on where they’d be in another ten years. It was a genuinely cute moment that helped establish a connection that was really brought home for the band’s final song of the night (but more on that in a bit). The song started back up, and it was at this point you were really able to appreciate the set the band had going. Behind the band were long thin lights arranged into squares, with three squares above each other, themselves being arranged into five columns. Each “side” of the square was set to light up in time with the music, at times making it appear as if the light was slowly creeping along the grid behind the band. There were also several spot and soft lights employed during the show, illuminating the stage in brilliant whites, reds and purples.

With many bands, it’s kind of a drag when they just première the new stuff live. Not so with Metric – Synthetica is probably their most cohesive album to date, and the songs felt terrific leading into one another live (in fact, I think it wasn’t until five songs in they play some older material, starting with Help I’m Alive). In my review I spoke a great deal about the emotional punch Dreams So Real delivers. Live it was a very different experience – the song was less an apex and moment of clarity as it is on Synthetica and more an “eye of the storm” during the show. It felt like a moment of quiet strategically placed to give the next song a little extra kick. It really is great to know Metric are already so comfortable with utilising their new material live – as I stated before, the band really feel like they’re on their A-game now. Lost Kitten was a damned explosion live – it’s the kind of fun, cool and energetic song that’s impossible to sit still through. However, a great deal of the O2′s space is made up of… Urgh… Seating. I’m not going to harp on it (again), but God damn, why do people sit down at gigs? Especially a Metric gig. It’s ludicrous! Even worse, I fear some of the stillness of those in seating infected the standing audience – it took them so shake their stiffness it was downright heinous. Still, they got moving during songs like Breathing Underwater and Gold Guns Girls.

As lively, loud and enraptured as the show was, Metric chose to finish the show in what was really a quite soft and beautiful way. Emily revealed she was a bit uneasy about the future, that she felt an “encroachment on her soul” was taking place, but that she hoped “we”, the audience, were doing okay. She noted they performed this song for the Queen, and noted to thank her for The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The band closed with an acoustic version of Gimme Sympathy – on its own, really quite an affecting song, but with the personal touch of the acoustic guitar it became a sweet and emotional moment of unity between the audience and the band. The band stopped playing for the ending chant of “come on baby play me something like here comes the sun” and allowed the audience to end the show. The band huddled together on stage, singing quietly along with the crooning audience, making sure all the lights were pointed directly at the crowd. This is something I always appreciate, as it is, essentially, a sign of appreciation from the band. It’s a mark of love, that at this moment, they want to see everyone, gathered together, singing one of their songs. For them. I can only hope they were able to feel the warmth and gratitude for that night that the audience surely felt.

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