Review by Farhana Alam with Photography by Helen Williams

Canadian-American four-piece, Metric, played their first ever headline show in Birmingham on Saturday, promoting their seventh album, ‘Art of Doubt’. Arriving at the O2 Institute almost two hours after doors opened, there were still quite a few people turning up to the sold-out venue (the first show on the tour to sell out completely). I had never been to this particular room of the Institute before; with its diagonal concrete beams holding up the ceiling and a complete lack of decor, it felt like we were buried en masse within the foundations of the building.


As the lights changed and the band walked on stage, the gloom of the room was immediately obliterated. The layout of the stage was pleasingly symmetrical: Joules Scott-Key with his drum kit at the back, before which stood keyboards and synthesisers arranged (in my opinion) like the front limbs of an arthropod, with vocalist Emily Haines before them. The image was completed by guitarist James Shaw on the left and bassist Joshua Winstead on the right (like the stalked eyes of the creature…).


They kicked off the set with ‘Love You Back’ from the current album, followed by ‘Youth Without Youth’ from the 2012 album, ‘Synthetica’. The audience appeared reluctant at first, but there was definite swaying and dancing a few more songs into the set. Haines, Shaw and Winstead stood in an impressive illuminated trio at the front of the stage for the echo-laden ‘Dressed to Suppress’. I took a moment to look around at the demographic of the crowd. It was an odd mix of people with an average age somewhere in the 30s or 40s; I was a little surprised that almost nobody was in their first quarter of life, but I decided that I liked this fact. Haines looked back at previous versions of herself with nostalgia, remarking on how growing older is like a sham when you view it in retrospect: “I was pretty much the same as I am now… but meaner!”


Haines took up the tambourine for what she called the “happy version” of ‘Breathing Underwater’. In keeping with the symmetrical theme, she described the dualism of the song and encouraged the crowd to sing along to a sad version of the chorus: “It’s gonna be cathartic!” The majority of the set was comprised of songs from ‘Art of Doubt’ and ‘Synthetica’, with a few others sprinkled in, including ‘Black Sheep’ (from the film, ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’), ‘Monster Hospital’ (from the 2005 album, ‘Live It Out’) and, later on, Combat Baby (from the debut 2003 album, ‘Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?’).


Prior to this gig, my knowledge of Metric’s discography did not stretch much further than the 2009 album, ‘Fantasies’. Haines reminisced fondly of this era (“Obama!”), describing the band’s music and this show as escapism from the world, but “escaping into your consciousness… going into the pain” rather than out of it. From that album, they played ‘Gimme Sympathy,’ ‘Sick Muse,’ ‘Gold Guns Girls’ and, as their closing song, ‘Help, I’m Alive.’ Despite my relative unfamiliarity with the other albums, my favourite song of the set was ‘Cascades’ (from the 2015 album, ‘Pagans in Vegas’). The green lights and smoke machine added to the other-worldly feeling induced by the song’s synths and vocal distortions. Another highlight for me was Shaw’s accomplished guitar-playing; I was mesmerised by it throughout the set.


‘Dark Saturday’, the opening song and first single of the current album appeared towards the end of the set. Its lyrics exclaim: “To be good, get better. I’ll change by staying the same.” Metric is a band that does not bow to whatever is trending in music right now, but continues to stay true to themselves and, in doing so, encourages their fans to do the same. This was one of the best gigs I’ve been to in recent years. Finally, massive kudos to Emily Haines for the ability to jump and dance on stage and yet continue to sing note-perfectly, with no hint of breathlessness!

See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.


One Response to “Metric at O2 Institute 2, Birmingham, UK – 17th November 2018”

  1. Metric at O2 Institute 2, Birmingham, UK – 17th November 2018 – Farhana Alam Says:

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