Review: Metric at the Crystal Ballroom

FFO: Broken Social Scene, Stars, Tegan and Sara, Blood Red Shoes

Last Tuesday, October 11th, Canadian indie-rock stalwarts Metric brought the tour supporting their new album, Formentera, to the Crystal Ballroom. Metric formed in the 1990s, originally the project of singer Emily Haines and guitarist James Shaw, with Josh Winstead (drums) and Jules Scott-Key (bass) joining in the band’s formative years, with the band emerging out of the Toronto indie scene of the 90s and 2000s which also spawned artists such as Broken Social Scene and Stars. Metric released their first albums (2003’s Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?) around the time many current PSU freshmen were born, and in many ways that album captures something of a futile search for meaning in an era infamously described as ‘the end of history’: songs such as ‘The List’ and ‘Dead Disco’ contain references to the crushing sameness brought on by globalization while ‘Succexy’ deals with the changing post-9/11 world.

            In the almost two decades since the album’s release, much has changed, however Metric has still managed to forge a path to continued relevance as the band has matured artistically. This year’s Formentera continues with some of the bands classic themes (such as wanderlust in ‘I Will Never Settle’) but, like 2018’s Art of Doubt it also takes on the changing, uncertain nature of the world we now live in and its pernicious influences in songs such as ‘All Comes Crashing’. Musically, this is feels very much like a Metric album, but the band certainly don’t stick solely to their comfort zone; the morphing nature of the ten-minute long Doomscroller, which opens the album, feels like new ground for the band.

The video for Doomscroller, the ten-minute epic that begins Metric’s new album, Formentera

            Indeed, on Tuesday evening, Metric opened with ‘Doomscroller’; the crowd’s response suggesting familiarity with the new album. Emily Haines, now three decades into her career, is still all glitter, style, and charisma on-stage, appearing genuinely delighted to back on tour and telling the crowd how much she’d missed them, with James Shaw beside her in his ever-present hat. When Haines picks up a guitar to begin ‘Gold Guns Girls’ from 2008’s Fantasies the crowd begins bouncing. They embrace this set that leaps between eras, bringing back memories both musical and personal: this is a band who write repeat-friendly tracks that for many have become a part of the soundtrack to their lives. Fans belt out lines from various albums: hundreds of voices sing “beating like a hammer” during ‘Help I’m Alive’ and join in as Haines and Shaw perform ‘The Police and The Private’ with just the two of them on stage.

            During the encore comes the crowd-pleaser Black Sheep, which (while a Metric original) was the fictional band The Clash at Demonhead’s song in the movie Scott Pilgrim vs The World. By the time set ends with ‘Breathing Underwater’, the entire ballroom are singing along to a chorus that has only become more relevant since it was released ten years ago on Synthetica:

Is this my life?

Am I breathing underwater?

Follow Metric on Instagram // Listen to ‘Formentera’ on Spotify // Visit Metric’s Website