Reviews

Metric + July Talk @ The National – February 21st 2019

Metric @ The National

Last Fall Canadian indie rockers Metric released their seventh album, Art of Doubt, their first since 2015’s Pagans in Vegas.  Working with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Nine Inch Nails, Beck, M83), Metric rediscovered their early chemistry and shifted their sonic focus from synth-laden soundscapes to more guitar-driven arrangements.  Filled with heavy buzzing guitar riffs and thundering rhythm anchoring Emily Haines’s familiar vocals, Art of Doubt is louder and more menacing than its predecessor.  With the album garnering favorable reviews, and despite spending a solid chunk of last year on the road supporting the reunited Smashing Pumpkins, Metric have embarked on a headlining winter tour with Mexican rock band Zoé that kicked off on February 11th in Cleveland.  When we learned that fellow Canadians July Talk would be providing support, we knew this would be a show not to be missed.  We caught the bands, minus Zoé who were not scheduled to perform, early in the tour at the National in Richmond VA… And we were not disappointed.

The Thursday night audience was leisurely filling in, but a sizeable crowd had formed by the time the time July Talk took the stage and started off the evening with “Summer Dress” from their Juno Award winning debut album July Talk.  Led by charismatic co-lead singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay, who was sporting a dramatically short new hairstyle, July Talk have earned a reputation for their wildly engaging live shows.  While the focus is often on the interplay between Dreimanis and Fay, the band itself is a tight unit.  Anchored by guitarist Ian Docherty, bassist Josh Warburton, and drummer Danny Miles, July Talk played through a short but solid set that drew from both of their albums, July Talk, and sophomore release Touch.  Highlights included “Guns + Ammunition,” “Headsick,” “Picturing Love,” and the set closing “Push + Pull.”  The band lived up to their reputation and left both hardcore followers and newly converted fans energized and buzzing.

With the fully packed house primed by July Talk’s solid performance, a roar filled the room as fog rolled across the stage and the lights dropped for Metric.  As the smoke swirled and the lights throbbed, the band launched into “Love You Back” from Art Of Doubt, followed by “synthetica.”  When not standing behind her microphone toward the front of the stage, or poised between two sets of keys further back, frontwoman Emily Haines prowled the stage often coming forward to engage with fans at the front, or dancing and twirling between bandmates James Shaw (guitar, backing vocals) and Joshua Winstead (bass, backing vocals).  Throughout the dynamic performance the playing remained tight and powerful, anchored by the pounding beat provided by Joules Scott-Key behind the drum kit.  The heavier songs from Art Of Doubt were even more powerful in the live setting, with “Risk,” “Dressed to Suppress,” and title track “Art of Doubt” standing out early in the set.  However, rather than focusing primarily on the new material, the band dug into songs from across their twenty-year career. Fan favorites like “Breathing Underwater,” “Cascades,” “Black Sheep,” and “Combat Baby” were played with a new vigor and intensity.  Rather than being a jarring shift between the various musical approaches of the band over the years, all of the songs played worked together to provide a cohesive and massively entertaining show.  The intensity of the crowd’s reaction increased with each new song, and by the time Metric closed out their set with “Gold Guns Girls,” the mood was positively euphoric.  The band returned to send the fans home with a three-song encore of “Dark Saturday’” “Now or Never Now,” and “Help I’m Alive.”  While filing out of the venue, a fan commented, “That was one of the best shows I have seen.”  The superlative may have been colored by the afterglow of the performance with adrenaline still pumping, but it certainly illustrated just how solid the show was, and how Metric are connecting with the audience.    

Metric + July Talk @ The National
Photos © Dan Kulpa // Clashdan Photography

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