Concert Review: Metric, Stars @ Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Canada

Last night was quite the indie rock double bill at the Air Canada Centre last night in Toronto. We got MC Hammer AND Psy! indie poppers Stars opening for Metric, who have risen from the club scene to play at the Air Canada Centre. Did we all see that coming or not? Stars and Metric have a long history of personal and musical lives intertwining, from high school friendships to guest spots with Broken Social Scene, and trying to make it in their own right as Canadian bands.

The last time I saw Metric (not counting their free Samsung show or whatever the fuck that show in front of Union Station was), they played the Mod Club for their Fantasies album launch. Now that was a hell of a show. How did they fare at the concert stage setting in the Air Canada Centre? Stop guessing and keep reading – I will give you the answers for free.

The openers were Stars, who are clearly riding high after their interview with PeteHatesMusic a few months ago (but they’ll tell you it was the other way around). Stars played in front of a faint backdrop that was their album cover for new album The North. The band noted they are from Montreal, adding “We’re also from Toronto, Canada.” before launching into The Theory of Relativity.

The touring line up consisted of 6 members, 4 of whom didn’t move around on the stage at all. Singer Torquil Campbell bobbed a little bit, while other singer Amy Millan sort of grinded and twisted awkwardly.

At the end of the track, Amy asked “Hey did you guys fire Rob Ford yet? I hope so.” So do I! Next up was Fixed, followed by Torq announcing “This song is a weapon, don’t you think?” as they played – surprise! – A Song is a Weapon. Torq worked out some agression with his shaker, while displaying a somewhat deeper and more raw voice in a live setting.

Amy told the crowd “I love Emily Haines more than you do”, which is impossible if she’s seen my Emily Haines shrine. Ageless Beauty (my nickname for Emily Haines) was played, followed by The North, which Torq noted was his entry into the national anthem contest, which apparently is a thing.

Stars at Air Canada Centre Toronto (Copyright: PeteHatesMusic)

View from the cheap seats. Bloggers only get cheap seats

We Don’t Want Your Body finally started to win over the somewhat mellow crowd, and the song lead into a clap along that extended until the beginning of the next track, Midnight Coward.

Torq kindly dedicated Soft Revolution to me and “the citizens of Toronto.” The band slyly changed a lyric to “Old World Underground” in a nod to Metric. Recent single Backlines followed, with Amy missing the first line I think, but things got corrected okay. If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know that we all make mistakes.

Torq began some kind of chant that lead to excellent track, Take Me to the Riot. He then noted that “We have one more song before your beloved Metric come on”, also thanking everyone for investing in art, and promising himself he wouldn’t cry that their childhood dreams came true as he gave a short ‘support the arts’ talk.

The last track is the standout track from the North, and was also the clear highlight of the night – Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It. Amy absolutely nailed the chorus.

Overall, the crowd was subdued for Stars. Granted they were the openers, but I don’t think the band picked the right songs for the big venue (in addition to Stars being better suited for a theatre). A few more hits might’ve helped win the crowd over, but the 45 minute set was generally enjoyable.

Metric stormed onto the stage around 9:15, with Emily Haines wearing a sort of tribal top and her trademark ridiculously AMAZING short skirt showing off those legs.

The first three songs from new album Synthetica kicked off the evening – Artificial Nocturne (complete with backing vocal track), Youth Without Youth, and Speed the Collapse. The band had rectangular lights to decorate the stage, with the light display alternating and sort of reminding me of an alarm clock display. There were no video screens for those of you in the cheap seats.

Another new track was played next, Dreams So Real, and still no banter from Emily Haines and the rest of the band. Emily was jumping and running around during this and most songs, as usual.

A track from Fantasies – Satellite Mind – followed, before the band launched into another new track in Lost Kitten. The start of the track had some interesting cut up vocal manipulation, while Emily noodled around on the synth.

Old hit Empty was next, which brought some applause from the crowd as soon as the opening notes were played. Emily placed her hands on hips, and did a full head shake during the 2nd half of song. She then tried some call and response towards the end of the song that didn’t work amazingly well.

Help I’m Alive also brought some big cheers, and the crowd was really into the show for seemingly the first time. A trio of new songs was next – Synthetica (which was true to the album version), Clone, and recent single Breathing Underwater. Despite it being a new single and a great song, the crowd didn’t really get into it. Maybe an arena is too big for Metric? Or maybe I’m used to the mental UK crowds I experienced the first 10 months of this year.

Metric at Air Canada Centre Toronto (Copyright: PeteHatesMusic)

Hi Emily!

Sick Muse had an intro that sounded like Today by the Smashing Pumpkins, with Emily shouting and screaming the first verse and pretty much ruining it for me. The track finished and segued seamlessly into Dead Disco, which is a song made for big arena sound whether or not they realized it many years ago. The song ground to a halt before exploding out of nowhere in a hectic and frantic outro.

The final song of the regular set was Stadium Love, which is just begging writers to insert some easy joke. When the track finished, a count down timer was displayed (told you it was like an alarm clock!), letting us know how long we had to run to grab more beers. For some reason, the timer stopped at 46. Was that to force us to applause? Emily was out of sight and started counting down from 40, which just seems way too high, and then hit zero and the Air Canada Centre exploded! band re-appeared: ta-da.

A track from the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World soundtrack followed – Black Sheep. The crowd didn’t seem to know it, but it was a good tune.

Another old hit, Monster Hospital, was next, with a crowd sing along during the chorus at the end as Emily stopped singing and forced us to – we pay you don’t forget! After the track, Emily reminisced about her high school days in Etobicoke with Amy Millan, and them being politically active, and how proud their parents were when they were on the cover of the Toronto Star. Ah, the good olde days.

Emily strapped on a guitar for Gold Guns Girls. The song featured a pretty awesome guitar solo from James Shaw at the end that really livened the song.

Before the next song, Emily gave a bit of a downer speech, talking about losing people and then thanking people for this evening. What followed was an acoustic version of Gimme Sympathy with just her and James. The other band members had to sheepishly walk out as the song was concluding to get their dues from the crowd.

So are Metric ready for Stadium Love? Or even Arena Love? At times, definitely yes.

Random: When leaving the gig, there was a free show on Front Street as part of the Grey Cup festivities. Who was playing? An act that used to fill arenas but now plays free Grey Cup shows – Our Lady Peace. It was a night of Canadiana overload – thank goodness we can make some good music.

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PHM Rating for Stars: 7.5 out of 10
PHM Rating for Metric: 8.0 out of 10

Setlist for Stars @ The ACC, Toronto, Canada – November 24, 2012

1 – The Theory of Relativity
2 – Fixed
3 – A Song is a Weapon
4 – Ageless Beauty
5 – The North
6 – We Don’t Want Your Body
7 – Midnight Coward
8 – Soft Revolution
9 – Backlines
10 – Take Me to the Riot
11 – Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It

Setlist for Metric @ The ACC, Toronto, Canada – November 24, 2012

1 – Artificial Nocturne
2 – Youth Without Youth
3 – Speed the Collapse
4 – Dreams So Real
5 – Satellite Mind
6 – Lost Kitten
7 – Empty
8 – Help I’m Alive
9 – Synthetica
10 – Clone
11 – Breathing Underwater
12 – Sick Muse
13 – Dead Disco
14 – Stadium Love


15 – Black Sheep
16 – Monster Hospital
17 – Gold Guns Girls
18 – Gimme Sympathy

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