In perhaps the Canadian indie institution’s ballsiest moment, Metric bounced back from a four-year dry spell in 2022 with Formentera: an avant-garde synth-rock opus with a ten-minute opening track and lyrics pining for a beach they’d merely glimpsed in a travel magazine. And it seems the ambition that defined the album is also being put into its supporting tour.
Before the Toronto mainstays even seize the stage at the Roundhouse, the rumour mill churned out stories that the set ahead will be two hours long. The band arriving a sliver after 9pm certainly supports that claim, yet, even if they only play for thirty seconds, they’ll have already brought the pomp. Frontwoman Emily Haines is clothed exclusively in shimmering silver sequins, while the stage is strewn with pianos and synthesisers.
Under a hue of dim blue light, Metric commence with Formentera’s aforementioned ten-minute single, ‘Doomscroller’. No fucks given. “Lining up all the numbers under the names. Notify the next of kin of the circumstances,” Haines quietly sings on top of a pounding electro beat.
It’s a strikingly dark opening for an act whose bread and butter is radiant indie rock, but the defining trait of Formentera was its voyage into the light. It began with this – a bleak epic with references to social media and school shootings – and ended with the sentimental singalong synthpop of ‘Paths in the Sky’.
Their Roundhouse gig follows suit. After the opener shuffles from gloomy beats to sullen hooks and heavy drums, ‘Gold Guns Girls’ puts some pep into the Roundhouse’s step and ignites the first roar of delight from the capacity crowd.
The anthem also heralds the first display of how dynamic tonight’s light show will be: when guitarist James Shaw breaks into that opening rock riff, the spotlight’s all his. Such spectacle returns in full force later with ‘What Feels Like Eternity’, where every note of Joshua Winstead’s opening bass riff is matched with a burst of white light.
The gritty grunge rock of ‘Dark Saturday’ is followed and juxtaposed by ‘False Dichotomy’: a Formentera summertime pop single written to grant some escape from the darkest depths of COVID. No matter the tone of what she’s singing, though, Haines’ vocals do not miss.
Whether she’s humming ominously or projecting for all of London to hear, she’s as flawless as the studio tracks that introduced these melodies to the world. And she maintains that brilliance while hopping and dancing around all evening with no mean feat of stamina.
However, despite her vocal prowess and infectious enthusiasm, Haines has an admitted lack of confidence when it comes to addressing her audience. There’s scarcely any banter between songs, mostly limited to her introducing her band members and, during set closer ‘Breathing Underwater’, talking the Roundhouse into one last, triumphant singalong to end the evening. It’s understandable if anyone craves more of that repartee between and fan, but, at the same time, Metric passing from hit to hit is by itself an ear-splitting statement of just how brilliant this band are.
The pre-show whispers of just how long the show’s gig would be end up becoming true; so, as something of an interlude for these two hours, Haines and Shaw take the stage alone for a two-song acoustic serenade. ‘Twilight Galaxy’ begets delight, but ‘Combat Baby’ – the sole throwback to Metric’s debut, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? – lends a pleasing completeness to the entire night. Plus, acoustic, the song’s just better: by sounding less rooted in 2003’s nascent new wave- indie sound, it becomes a stripped-back number with timelessly good hooks.
By the time ‘Monster Hospital’ and Scott Pilgrim-endorsed megahit ‘Black Sheep’ rear their heads during the encore, nothing feels omitted from this career retrospective. Perhaps it’s a sly celebration of the fact that this year marks two decades of Metric’s melodicism. Either way, it’s been five years since this band last graced a stage in the UK, and here they’ve compensated for their absence by providing what can only be seen as their quintessential setlist.