METRIC + Death From Above 1979 + Comme Un Homme Li @ Cabaret

By Jordan-na - Canadian Invasion - 09/29/04

Day one of Pop Montreal, ‘twas Wednesday. The buzz was all about the Metric show with Comme un homme libre and Death from Above 1979. I arrived late, just in time to hear a bunch of girls in miniskirts screaming in French. Turns out they were Quebec’s Comme un homme libre, bumped down one spot on the bill because of the last minute addition of Death From Above
1979 to the line-up. They deserved the demotion, impressing no one, including me who was glad she was late.

Cabaret was filled to capacity as Death from Above 1979 ripped open their set with their rapid, pulsating, thrusting sounds, sweaty before they even started. It was a spit in the face, exactly the kind of music that your parents hate and prompts the age-old, generation gap catchphrase: “That’s not music, that’s noise.” Your parents would be partially right but it’s pure, raw, distorted, beautiful noise that hits something deep and primitive in the listener. DFA 1979 served up their short, guttural songs in the right manner, with a frantic, fuck-‘em-we-don’t-care delivery. No wonder it was mostly the guys who dug it, bobbing their heads as their girlfriends looked on, perhaps trying to figure out singer/drummer Sebastien Grainger’s t-shirt that read “Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian.”

But how is one to go from the visceral sounds of DFA 1979 to Metric’s coolly political pop thoughtfulness? The headlining band solved that problem by starting with a feverish delivery of instrumental sounds. They had that sweaty, chaotic thing going before snapping into their odd but mod mode, too cool to smile, too cool to care.

Metric were able to play to the crowd, opening with the popular “IOU” and “Succexy,” winning over the room instantly. The crowd was smitten from the beginning, with the kind of wide-eyed adoration usually reserved for boy bands and ageing crooners.

Lead singer and keyboarder Emily Haines was beyond cool but not beyond worship. “I know you scream for Jesse and Sebastien,” Haines said in her disaffected way, referring to the duo of DFA 1979, “But will you scream for me?” People waved their arms in the air, screamed and sang along. One girl could hardly contain her excitement and bounced throughout the entire set as she mouthed every single lyric like an overeager teenybopper.

Weirdly cool, you have to hear and see them. Their on-stage theatrics almost eclipsed their sound. Guitarist James Shaw and bassist Josh Winstead stumbled and posed around the stage as Haines hopped, popped and shook, singing in her sweet but aloof voice. The band was having fun with their on-stage theatrics but forgot to have fun with the music, to experiment, to create something new out of what is already loved by their fans. Each song was played in a perfect note-to-note re-creation of their debut album, perhaps to please those who only enjoy familiar territory and pout when anything is changed or played differently. I’ll just say that I didn’t go to this show to hear a reproduction of their debut hit. I could have stayed home and listened to the CD.

The best moment came when no one was trying to be anything. The stage turned blue and yellow like a soft sunset, the band stopped cavorting around the stage, and Haines made ethereal lullaby noises emerge from her keyboard. The effect was eerie and calming. But it wasn’t enough to calm my soul, hungry for more of the realism and raw power of DFA 1979. Enough of Metric’s posing for the poseurs. C’mon, guitarist James Shaw was wearing a black shirt with a white tie, for fuck’s sake! He reminded me of No Doubt’s bassist. Perhaps such a comparison foretells Metric’s future.

The beauty of live music is that you can experience an artists’ music in its purest, most spontaneous form, away from the gizmos and gadgets of the production room. By listening to a CD, you develop an interpretation of the artist’s music and by seeing them live, you finally get to see and hear the artists’ interpretation of their work in that moment. You get a feeling of where the song comes from and what it means to them. Watching Metric, as they stumbled along the stage and Haines pounded her Casio, I couldn’t find that inner meaning, only that they wanted to play it safe by trying nothing new. I left early, still in love with “Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?” but wondering exactly where Metric is now.

Jordan-na hosts Canadian Invasion from 4-6pm every Friday, with her kickass blend of Canadian rock-pop-punk-ska. Her interests include singing in the shower, picking pretty flowers, and bubblegum. Cute!