photo credit: Casey Holder

Trudeau is under investigation, maple syrup is being diluted with corn syrup but Canada’s greatest export is still as potent and powerful as ever. Indie rockers, Metric, came to ACL Live on Saturday night and leveled the crowd with an evocative and ear-pinning set. The opening set from tenured Mexican space rockers, Zoe, gave the show an exciting outset, and a sense of North American bonhomie, with all of NAFTA present. A 16-song set from the headliner would eventually satiate even the most rabid Metric fans.

Emily Haines…. That name is enshrined in the psyche of men and women alike as a goddess who deserves to be fanned and worshipped until the pillars of civilization fall. Haines has a cavalier and seductive air about her that has not lessened since the band began in 1998. Yet the transcendental baptism truly immerses listeners when Haines begins to sing, her vocals pristine and effortless. Sauntering around the stage with a panther-like gait, Haines owns every inch of her path, assiduously stealing the focus of every single member of the audience.

The show erupted with the sugary “Love You Back” and quickly segued into a sneeringly addictive “Synthetica”. Guitarist, James Shaw, played an electrifying counterbalance to Haines, unleashing his frenetic energy on songs like “Risk” and “Gold Guns Girls”. An early set crescendo was reached when a newer hit, “Dressed to Suppress” was played with all the cocksure moxie the band could muster, and followed with the vulnerable and uplifting, “Breathing Underwater”.

A nostalgic reminiscing took place mid-set, where Haines ruminated on earlier Austin shows that featured BBQ, Barton Springs and playing Stubbs. Yet the driving momentum was hardly diminished and the band then plowed into the surprise of the night, “Cascades”, which had disco charm and a futuristic cocktail party vibe. Little did the audience know that a ‘Sophie’s Choice’ was soon about to be foisted on them by Haines.

“This is the existential part of the set where I decide whether to embrace a time of innocence for the band, or a time of recklessness – Should we play ‘Gimme Sympathy’ or ‘Dead Disco’?”

Despite my own decibel and octave levels reaching Everest-esque heights for “Dead Disco”, it was “Gimme Sympathy” that would be played, with little to no complaining on my end. The building inertia was only further propelled by “Gold Guns Girls”, which layered Haines’ sirenic vocals over frenzied drums and guitars.

An encore of “Dark Saturday”, “Now or Never Now” and the audio equivalent of Thor’s hammer, “Help I’m Alive”, would conclude a colossal show. A curious energy shot through the audience; a motley mix of liberation, adoration and even aggression (a fight broke out in front of me) swirled into the ether. Whatever your motives were for seeing Metric, old fans and new, the sheer force of their sound and eclectic emotional range was delivered with devastating effectiveness, and we the audience, were gifted the with a 90-minute escape from ourselves.

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