Review: Metric sparkle, shine in a night of synth-pop at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa

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October

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Emily Haines is a synth princess, and my, does she have loyal followers.

The 5-foot-1 singer fronts the Canadian electro-pop act Metric, who played to a nearly sold-out crowd at the Ritz Ybor Saturday night. Haines, also a member of Broken Social Scene and the main face of Metric, might be small, but her stage presence commanded all eyes in the room. Which is not to say her bandmates — guitarist James Shaw, bassist Joshua Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key —paled in comparison; their admirably tight set gave Haines a perfect platform to shine.

The band opened just after 9 p.m. with Artificial Nocturne, followed by Youth Without Youth and Speed the Collapse, the first three songs in order from their latest record, Synthetica, which made it seem like fans would get a front-to-back gig. But that wasn’t the case. The performance appeared to be all about timing, easing into the energy and audibly evolving into their deepest synth-laden jams. Crowd climax moments happened during Empty, Stadium Love and radio favorite Help, I’m Alive.

Haines’ energy seemed uncontainable. Her birdlike buoyancy stood out as she bounced across the stage in a pair of tight black shorts and a black leather jacket, a tower fan in the center constantly blowing her blond hair. Sometimes she banged on the tambourine or did leg kicks; others, she clutched the synth stand as a crutch to ground her. During Dead Disco and Empty, she sang and worked played synthetic melodies while running in place and jerking her body and head about like an animated cartoon character with too much caffeine.

For added effects, blue laser beams projected over the crowd, illuminating all the lingering mist from fog machines, and LED lights outlined the stage in squares behind the musicians. It was the type of backdrop one might expect from poppy, bubblegum synth-rock.

The comedown came with the encores, first Black Sheep and Gold Guns Girls, with Haines taking the lead on guitar. They closed with an acoustic version of Gimmie Sympathy, where Haines took a moment to reminisce about the band’s journey and told the crowd, “Do what you want to do with your life, and go for it even if people tell you it can’t be done.”

I’ll fess up to not being the biggest fan prior to the gig, but I admit, the sound was perfection. Haines’ vocals were spot on and all band members played strong, equal parts. The deep, dirty beats mixed of distortion and synth merged so seamlessly with the live instruments that it was hard to believe it wasn’t all electronic. That combined with Haines’ showmanship just might justify the $30 to $40 price tag.

— Stephanie Bolling, tbt*

[Last modified: Monday, October 1, 2012 1:36pm]

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