Metric throws down the hits, and the hair, at Greek


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By Gabriel Jones

Rock music more or less comes down to two questions: What’s next? And/or, what decade do we resurrect?

Metric has spent the better part of a decade bringing back the ’80s, an ebullient new-wave post- (if diluted) riot grrrl act that falls somewhere between Kim Wilde and Blondie. And the Canadian band carried on the revival – complete with Jazzercise routine – Tuesday night at the Greek Theatre.

Bandleader Emily Haines’ voice is a complicated blend of feminine vulnerability and feminist defiance: at times plastic and adenoidal and pseudo-juvenile like Gwen Stefani’s or Cyndi Lauper’s, a parody of what’s expected of young, thin, attractive women that ends up shattering illusions and expectations with the words she’s singing; at other times rich, full, or raw, belting out arena-ready anthemic rock for women (or anybody) torn between desire and need and the price you have to pay for both. “How I’d love to give in,” as Haines sang on “Empty.”

Haines and her band have always been more Patty Smyth than Patti Smith, though, more about energy and exclamation than attitude or statement – as my seatmate sang jokingly during one song when Haines was tossing her hair this way and that, “I whip my hair back and forth ”¦” Which, while meant harmlessly, isn’t off the mark, since Willow Smith’s 2010 song is the essential statement of youthful exuberance without much else to say other than, well, I whip my hair back and forth ”¦

Given all the talk lately of “the end of men” and the rise of single women, though, this kind of statement is hardly unimportant. And as much as Metric has drawn on borderline-feminist New Wave acts like Blondie, or edgy post-masculine bands like the Cars, they’ve also given rise in turn to recent acts like the Naked and the Famous that carry on the sense that strong and powerful female voices aren’t necessarily feminine or feminist but simply human. And their set Tuesday night showed that strength and power, moving through a retrospective set that showcased both recent work as well as early hits that kept most of the crowd on its feet throughout the night.

Opening band Half Moon Run (from Montreal, as they reminded us several times throughout the set, maybe to disabuse us of the impression we might’ve otherwise gotten from their stage dress that they were straight from the barrio) found much of its own inspiration in the 1970s with harmonies that evoked America or Crosby, Stills and Nash, joining recent harmonizers Local Natives and Fleet Foxes in a collective revival of elegant ’70s-era masculine sensitivity to complement Metric’s power femininity. Other times, the band showed its experimental side with soulful vocals over an ambient or even southwestern soundtrack, as if Chris Martin were fronting The Album Leaf or Labradford, maybe exploring different futures for what band they’ll eventually become. Regardless, they offered enormous promise in both their versatility as well as their textured melodies and rewarded the folks who arrived early enough to see them.