Academy 2, Manchester
January 31st 2023
There is something different about Metric tonight. Perhaps it’s the venue, which at a capacity of 900 is the smallest they’ve played in Manchester in over a decade; perhaps it’s the long layoff from touring that the pandemic imposed, something singer Emily Haines makes repeated reference to between songs. “It’s been too long,” she says. The Toronto outfit were last in town in November of 2018.
Then, they were out in support of Art of Doubt, a slick exercise in dark synthpop that, for all its polish, felt a little like they were running in place. Last year’s follow-up to it, Formentera, is a different beast entirely, which is in evidence during tonight’s opener from it, Doomscroller. A murky, ominous symphony in low mood and high drama, it sees Haines on unusually pointed, sharply political form, as she delivers a scathing state-of-the-nation address over the course of ten epic minutes – “Salt of the earth, underpaid to serve you/ruling classes trickle piss from champagne glasses.”
Most of the new material is imbued with an urgency befitting that kind of rhetoric, whether it’s What Feels Like Eternitys gentle lament of life’s cyclical nature or the stormy, end-of-day reflection of All Comes Crashing. Whilst Formentera helps form the backbone of the setlist, though, the show is ultimately a career-spanning affair, and fittingly so, given that just hours before doors opened, Metric notched up their third nomination for Group of the Year at the Juno Awards, their native Canada’s flagship music ceremony.
They scooped that particular gong in 2010, off the back of what is arguably still their finest work, 2009’s Fantasies; it is well-represented tonight, with an extended, riff-driven outro to Gold Guns Girls reminding us of its searing vitality and an anthemic singalong for poppy single Gimme Sympathy among the standouts. There’s also room for some genuinely early cuts, perhaps as a nod to the fact that, improbably, the band will mark their 25th anniversary this year; accordingly, we get a disarmingly gentle Combat Baby, from 2003’s debut LP Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, as part of a two-song acoustic interlude at the set’s midpoint, while there’s also room, later, for a fizzing version of Monster Hospital.
They give props, too, to Synthetica, their gleaming synthpop opus from 2012, and an album that, whilst under appreciated at the time, has gone on to prove hugely prescient since; Breathing Underwater provides the big send-off, but it’s the title track, earlier, that is a more stirring reminder of that record’s powers. The set overall, though, reminds us of how durable and diverse a career Metric have had, as well as the fact that – with Formentera – they still have plenty to say, a quarter of a century in.
Metric can be found at their website | Facebook | Instagram
Words by Joe Goggins: find him on Twitter here.
Photo credit: Helen Millington
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