Metric The Funhouse, Toronto ON, November 14

Metric The Funhouse, Toronto ON, November 14
Photo: Stephen McGill
"This is not a denial-based experience," Emily Haines announced after she and fellow Metric member Jimmy Shaw had to pause and begin their first song of the evening over again. "This is a reality-based experience. This is your album, and we're going to get it right."
In 2018, Metric released a record that engaged with everything they had created before. Art of Doubt pulled together the grit of 2005's Live it Out with the complex melodic patterning of 2009's Fantasies and the electronically anxious edge of 2012's Synthetica. But the album isn't a retrospective. It is completely born from the age it was created in.
Perhaps this is why a reflective moment, now, feels right. For every Thursday in November, Emily Haines and Jimmy Shaw invited fans to join them for an intimate choose-your-own-set-list recording session within an interactive art maze in Toronto. The experience of the show was ethereal — assisted by the fact that audience members had to traverse the light-and-texture show before entering the "Underwater Ballroom" where the concert took place.
But the setting wasn't all that was unique about the evening. When audience members purchased their tickets, they were asked to respond with song requests, with an emphasis on sharing personal stories. This allowed the band to dedicate songs to individuals in the room, and to explain, for example, that "Gimme Sympathy" was selected for its importance to a couple in attendance who walked down the aisle to the popular Fantasies track.
The duo kicked off the evening with Live It Out's "The Police and the Private," followed by Pagans in Vegas track "The Other Side." The duet worked as a showcase of artistic connection. Later in the night, Shaw and Haines would speak in code to clarify chord or verse changes before beginning more underplayed songs ("Twilight Galaxy" was introduced as a first-ever acoustic performance) in an effort to keep the reveals.
In this way, the show — really a recording session for the album that will be mailed to each audience member in the new year — gave the crowd a glimpse into the recording world of Metric. Count-ins, restarts, and shorthand conversations set an intimate tone. The loss was the inability for the audience to sing and dance along for fear of ruining the recording. "Help I'm Alive" was, as Haines explained, "a doozy," and the band had to restart the song with concentration. The potential sing-along energy was palpably restrained. If ever anyone shouted out during a song, the audience tensed as a whole.
Haines reflected throughout on how much she had learned and grown since she had begun with Metric. On more recent, ruminative songs like Art of Doubt's "Now or Never Now" and "No Lights on the Horizon," she had to take a moment to balance herself in the heaviness. "Now or Never Now" is an anthem that could take over an arena of dancing, singing, rock'n'roll fans, but when played acoustic, is so clearly made up of raw nerves.
The cool, crisp "Lost Kitten" and "Breathing Underwater" performances from earlier in the show now felt like a warmup to the heavy-hitting truth of Metric. Their power has always been the ability to hold noisy, edgy anger alongside ragged and vulnerable truths. In this way, "Live It Out" was a perfect choice for a closer. It's a song about heartbreak, with a promise to move forward. Haines invited everyone to sing along for the final moments of the show, and finally that held-in energy was released into the strange, vibrant space.
"It's a weird thing to do," Haines said, near the end of the show. "I'm performing, but I also crack my heart open." She pauses to smile at Shaw across the stage. "In the key of G."