Metric at Rock the Garden, 6/15/13

Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Rock the Garden, Walker Art Center
Saturday, June 15, 2013

Metric pulled off a mighty efficient show to close out 2013's running of 89.3 the Current and the Walker's Rock the Garden on Saturday. With little banter and just the power of stadium-sized material, radiant frontwoman Emily Haines and her three associates delivered 70 minutes of precision work.

The set wasn't without its share of improvised audience participation and theatrics, but even as the cooler evening air soothed the attendees, the band was playing to a slightly agitated crowd that wasn't in the mood for any more surprises. (The Dan Deacon parking garage performance seemed to go over better than the one-song Low set and the early afternoon rain.)

See Also:
Slideshow: Rock the Garden, the Music
Slideshow: Rock the Garden, People and Scenes

Low's one-song set at Rock the Garden totally ruled

"Hello again, Minneapolis!" was as much as Emily Haines said for most of the set. From this viewer's vantage point it was difficult to see if her blonde locks were blown from her face by consistent wind gusts or a fan mounted to her ornate wooden keyboard stand, but it was an electrifying addition to her already powerful stage presence. As she led her band -- guitarist James Shaw, bassist Joshua Winstead, and drummer Joules Scott-Key -- Haines over-accentuated her lyrics to ensure that they were discernible, and then repeated them and looped them through her treasure chest of keyboards and vocal effects to ensure they were unforgettable.

Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen

After a toy piano-adorned "Artificial Nocturne," she gripped her gilded microphone and strutted for a Blondie-tinged run through "Youth Without Youth" and implored the jam-packed crowd to "jump with me." And then there was a whole lot more space -- at least in the three or so inches between the ground and the soles of those assembled. The first crowd surfer of the set sailed through.

The headliner at Rock the Garden is at an advantage in two particular ways. The crowd had plenty to drink, and it's a cinematic display as the sun speeds its collapse below the horizon, as it did while Metric's dramatic "Speed the Collapse" played. Capitalizing on nature's gift of a flickering orange sky gradually diminishing, "Empty" got Haines working the whole stage, and Shaw's bursting guitar work laid on the intensity as everyone was ordered to "Shake your head, it's empty."

The disadvantage of the final slot at Rock the Garden, of course, is the strict 10 p.m. curfew. Since Metric got up there at about 8:50 p.m., their efficient work was necessary so that they could hope to finish a regular set's worth of their lengthier, expanding songs -- adorned with codas and sing-along moments.

Winstead and Scott-Key had no problem keeping the tempo up for this race to the cliff, and raged with power for "Synthetica," which took on new life in a live setting after an abundance of spins in the past several months on the Current. The tougher song to pull off, given all of the energy particles in the air, was the more-staid "Clone." Still, this was where the blocks all fit together for what would be the beginning of the end of the night. Haines grabbed her sparkling tambourine as darkness hugged the proceedings, and she aptly sang about it being "late in the day."

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