I’ve said before that it’s hard to get me out to an arena show, and someone must have heard that and accepted the challenge, because I wasn't going to miss the combination of Metric and July Talk at any venue. Especially after they added Murray A Lightburn to the bill for what I had (probably ad nauseam) been calling the best three-act bill I had seen in a long time.
Murray A Lightburn was out first, taking the stage with just his guitar under a single light. It was kind of surreal seeing a singer for The Dears on this type of stage, only weeks after seeing him do the same at The Fox, but...
Starting with "Belleville Blues", Lightburn playing a short set of acoustic material, both his solo songs from the latest album Hear Me Out, like the gorgeous “Centre of my Universe”, as well as a few Dears songs, like the powerfully emotional "There Goes My Outfit" from Gang of Losers.
After joking that he hoped he wasn't boring the audience -- the growing crowd responded with a supportive cheer -- he finished off the set with "Fan Fiction (Ballad of a Genius)" which he made sure to point out was NOT autobiographical, and then "When They See Me", which was.
From a selfish point-of-view, I would rather see him play at venues like The Fox any time, but he somehow translated that intimate performance on to the big stage.
Next up was July Talk, who were under a large, inflated, illuminated moon balloon, and behind a giant, circular projection screen (also a moon at times, but used to play video clips as well). Leah Fay gave the introduction, acknowledging they're on unceded territory, and thanking everyone for being there.
They started the set off with a bang, first with "Headsick", then going right into "Guns + Ammunition", getting the crowd to “woo-hoo-hoo” along with them. The whole band has a fantastic stage presence, but especially the chemistry between Leah and Peter Dreimanis. Not only how their sweet + sour voices intertwine, but their playful interactions on stage. The way they interact and bounce off each other (sometimes literally) is off the charts.
They also got the crowd involved, getting people to sing along to “Summer Dress”, and during a new song — introduced as being about toxic masculinity (I think called “Pay For it”) — Fay went right up to the crowd and sang to the people up front. And that wasn’t the only new song, as they previewed a few, including a more upbeat sounding — if not lyrically — “The News”.
As they brought the set to an end, they somehow managed to ramp up the energy even more, with the raw intensity of “Beck + Call”; one of my favourites, the steamy "Lola + Joseph"; and finally the haunting “Push + Pull”.
I could have left right then and been completely satisfied with the evening, but if anyone could successfully follow July Talk...
... it would be Metric. The set started off with a dark stage, only a single, thin LED strip with smoke, creating an appropriate effect for a song entitled "Twilight Galaxy". Unfortunately there was a bit of an awkward pause after the first song, as I believe they had to deal with some technical issues with a guitar... but they got the momentum back with the dance-y "Synthetica".
As usual, Emily Haines was a dynamo on stage, hardly standing still, her incredible voice ringing through the arena, and I always seem to forget just how good Jimmy Shaw is on guitar, to say nothing of Joshua Winstead and Joules Scott-Key on bass & drums. Highlights from the set included songs from the new album, like the title track “Art of Doubt” and the bombastic “Dressed to Suppress", as well as older favourites like “Gimme Sympathy”, which got every last person in the stands on their feet, and the frenetic “Gold Guns Girls” which ended off the main set.
They returned for the encore, Emily, James, and Joshua standing shoulder to shoulder at the front of the stage to go into "Dark Saturday" before ripping through a few all-time hits, like "Monster Hospital"; one of my personal favourites, The Clash At Demonhead “cover” of "Black Sheep"; and "Help, I'm Alive", which once again had the arena singing along. That could have ended off the set, but they still had one left in the proverbial tank, leaving the arena with "Now Or Never Now" off the new album.
Going in to the show, I was very excited, and everything pretty much lived up to my expectations. Both Metric and July Talk are among the most high-energy bands working and absolutely felt at home on the stage. Plus it was a great joy to hear the more stripped-down Lightburn in a setting like that as well.
Art of Doubt
No Lights on the Horizon
Dress to Suppress
Love is a Place
Underline the Black
Gold Guns Girls
Help, I'm Alive
Now Or Never Now
July Talk setlist
Guns + Ammunition
Now I Know
Pay For It[??]
Still Sacred Can Fall[??]
Beck + Call
Lola + Joseph
Push + Pull
Murray A Lightburn setlist
Centre of my Universe
I Give Up
Ticket to Immortality
There Goes my Outfit
Fan Fiction (Ballad of a Genius)
When They See Me