This is a special tour for Amy Millan, one half of the vocals section of Stars, not only because her band will be playing their largest shows yet, but because she’s sharing the stage with her frequent collaborator and childhood friend, Metric’s lead-lady Emily Haines, and that excitement shone through in their performance.
Despite an early bail that took him face-to-face with the front row, singer Torquil Campbell rebounded and maintained his firecracker energy throughout Stars’ set, beautifully counterbalanced by Millan’s grace and elegance. Millan has one of the most captivating voices in Canadian music: both delicate and strong, it’s a breathy and smooth sound that floats above the synthesized electro-rock grooves of her band, and it held up studio-quality in person as she bounced around the stage and tossed LED lights into the crowd.
I had the fortune to sit beside some of Millan’s family, including her mother, who is hopscotching across Canada alongside the band and helping Millan with her new baby. I heard stories from Haines’s and Millan’s high school days, and when Stars wrapped, I asked the honest, albeit biased, assessment of Millan’s mom: really good.
Metric opened with “Artificial Nocturne,” the first track off their latest album Synthetica. It’s an aptly-titled album for a band who’s gradually transitioned from guitar-based rock to smoother, more electronic sounds. While they played the majority of that record, they didn’t neglect their robust catalogue, plucking the hits from each album (“Monster Hospital,” a particularly explosive “Stadium Love,” etc.), even reaching back to 2004 with a manic rendition of “Dead Disco.” It’s easy to forget just how many huge songs Metric has written, and more than once I assumed they’d tapped their best tracks until I recognized the first chords of another I’d forgotten.
Emily Haines prowled the stage like a predator, strutting about backlit by a power grid of lights: cold whites and electric blues with flares of inferno red. Despite some seizure-inducing moments that forced me to turn away, the setup embodied the show perfectly–so few bands can ricochet between apathetic cool and molten intensity with the seamless ease of Metric. Perhaps more than any other, that dynamism is the one reason Metric created a raw concert experience and rabid fandom that Stars hasn’t matched.
After a lengthy encore, the band bid farewell with an acoustic version of “Gimme Sympathy.” With seats to spare the show won’t be the tour’s biggest, but with fans standing in their seats and dancing in the aisles, Victoria earned its place as the tour’s launch point. Save On hasn’t received stadium love like that in quite some time, and likely it won’t again soon.
By Grady Mitchell