“Why isn’t it the weekend?!”
This was screamed at me halfway through Metronomy’s set on Wednesday night and exemplifies the reason so many had ventured out on a cold and wet November night. They came to forget that there was rain, winds, and the imminent threat of Christmas drawing ever closer. They came to experience English Electronica veterans Metronomy provide the soundtrack to dance away their midweek blues.
Before the main event, the crowd were treated to the quirky beats and creamy guitar tones of Girl Ray, the self-titled Girl Power Trio hailing from London. Reflected in their all-white attire and Americana tees, Girl Ray’s nostalgic ethereal sound eased the crowd into the evening, with vocals and copious smoke creating a soothing atmosphere. In spite of their levels needing to be adjusted, their sound was overall solid, with their music and aesthetic clearly drawing inspiration from the LA rock/pop trio of sisters – Haim. With a new album coming out later this month, Girl Ray’s understated performance was the perfect runway into a night which was very much Metronomy’s plane.
Walking casually to the stage, it’s clear Metronomy aren’t the same band since they reached the height of critical acclaim with 2011’s untouchable ‘The English Riveria”. They’re looser, less concerned with technical perfection (though they came damn close) and are more focused on recreating the dancefloor in which all their tracks are based. This attitude is a far cry from the last time I saw Metronomy, at Latitude Festival over 6 years ago. Instead of static movements of musicians chained to their instruments, Metronomy couldn’t wait to boogie around the stage, easily sliding betweens songs with each track, like any good DJ set, seamlessly flowing into the next.
This more lively approach is perhaps a reflection of their newest studio album ‘Metronomy Forever’ which, for better or worse, has let the band take themselves less seriously. Off the back of an extensive European tour, Wednesday marked their inaugural gig in the UK. The band’s time in Europe had clearly been good practice, with Metronomy presenting a tight set with improved synchronicity, which was evident when they played personal and crowd favourite ‘Everything Goes My Way’. Lead by the signature voice of lead singer Joseph Mount – that perfect blend of quirky and considered – Metronomy were quickly at ease in Southampton despite several, massively unpopular, mentions of Portsmouth in between floor fillers.
As well as a new attitude, Metronomy have also recruited an additional synth player since I saw them last, which has only added to the band’s chemistry since their formation in 1999. This was clear in Metronomy’s slightly tweaked rendition of ‘I’m Aquarius’, which gave the crowd a low key performance via solitary vocals and sparse lighting. The song’s peeled back aspects showed the band’s prowess at creating a catchy melody from sparse sounds and building them to rhythmic conclusions with nothing but backing vocals and synths. These qualities shone through on newer tracks like ‘Whitsand Bay’, with the rhythmic chant of “Everyone talks” only building intensity, and ‘Reservoir’ which gave us the sultry synth for which many in the crowd had clearly been waiting.
Metronomy closed their main set with ‘The Look’, ‘Love Letters’, and ‘Sex Emoji’ – the third song’s title being almost as laughahble as it’s lyrics. ‘The Look’ and ‘Love Letters’ were rousing, the stage doused in pink with the synths screaming out with each movement of the spotlights. Aside from ‘Salted Caramel Ice Cream’, Metronomy’s newer music was significantly less popular. Though this is common among bands who have a long running fan base and several studio albums under their belt, it was also evident in their performance. Tracks such as ‘Insecurity’ and ‘Lying Low’ clearly needed more live definition, specifically in backing vocals and overall pitching.
This was also the case in their performance of ‘Upset My Girlfriend’, which proved a little too self indulgent, even for an encore. Perhaps this new laissez-faire attitude does not always loosen the creative binds in a positive way, especially in the lyrical department. Thankfully, their performance was capped off with a blistering rendition of ‘Radio Ladio’, a throwback to the much lauded (and criminally under-listened) ‘Nights Out’. While their new material is still clearly a work in progress, musically and lyrically, it was refreshing to see the band in such a loosened state. The crowd were reminded why Metronomy are an integral part of English Electronica. With their older music performed tighter than ever, and now married with a much more expressive performance, I look forward to seeing what the band will become with even more experimentation and experience playing to larger audiences.
Words and Photos: Jamie Kidd