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Metric at the Burton Cummings Theatre, Winnipeg

Emily Haines with Metric concert photo

Emily Haines with Metric at the Burton Cummings Theatre, Winnipeg, Oct 28 2009. Alison Pattern photo.

Review and photos – Metric at the Burton Cummings Theatre, Winnipeg Oct 28 2009

– review by Skot Deeming/photos by Alison Pattern

Let me begin by saying that I’m still rather newish to Winnipeg, and so up until this point had never visited the Burton Cummings Theatre. (The name itself is a point of contention for many people I know, as Mr. Cummings bought the Walker Theatre and then subsequently named it after himself, or so the story goes.)

Regardless of its nomenclature and the politics surrounding it, I have to say, it’s a magnificent space. Characterized by a high vaulted ceiling and classic moldings and a tri-level balcony, it’s a grand room, and one that is the ideal size for a concert.

Metric came out strong, opening with “Satellite Mind” off its latest album, Fantasies, and kept up the energy level for the rest of the set. Singer/keyboard player Emily Haines‘ animated delivery is matched by the group’s kinetic new wave pop, and vice versa.

Her charm and charisma was epitomized by her continual bopping around, striking poses, and interacting with the audience. Clearly, she and her bandmates – guitarist James Shaw, bassist Josh Winstead, drummer Joules Scott-Key – were having fun, and loosening up their tightly controlled tunes enough to allow Haines to interject lines from Iggy Pop‘s “The Passenger” and the Beastie Boys‘ “Fight For Your Right”. Everyone, it seemed, was having a blast.

Yet for me there was a slight disconnect

Specifically, it was the video projections. If I’m to go to a large-scale show like this and video is going to be used, I expect the same professionalism I see on stage, and I have to say the presentation was underwhelming. Whole songs would pass by with one abstract loop, timed roughly to the music, while during other tunes the video screen would simply go blue. Anyone who knows video knows that blue means the projector is not receiving a signal. At the very least, if you don’t want video for the whole performance – make it black and let the lights take over.

Now here’s the rub for me. I am a VJ, and I know the others who practice in my city and they are all really good at what they do. So seeing something that looked amateurish and not well-thought-out, well, I felt a little insulted. This is a rather big band with a solid act, I daresay even a solid brand, and yet, this portion of the show fell far short of what I had hoped for.

It seemed as if the person doing the video work either didn’t really know, or didn’t really care about the craft. Also I recognized one of the clips as a clip posted by another VJ on archive.org under creative commons licensing, and for a commercial show, well that just strikes me as bad form. I honestly don’t know whether or not that artist was compensated for his work being used in this show, but I hope we was, as he should be.

And with that I will end my criticism. Because, by the end of Metric‘s set, that Haines magic had infected me, though it was the encore that sealed the deal. One by one the band members left the stage, and after the usual pleading of fans for more, one by one they returned, to drive it home with a great version of “Monster Hospital”, a personal fave, and an acoustic duet by Haines and Shaw on “Combat Baby”. No amount of blank video screen could ruin that.

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