Metric and Neil Young: glitter and guitars

How does one even begin to compare Metric and Neil Young and Crazy Horse? These two Canadian bands are at the top of their games, but both are play­ing entirely different games.

Metric played to packed houses in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. recently, promoting their newest album Synthetica. This multi-award winning Canadian group, headlined by the talented Emily Haines, certainly commands attention on stage with punchy lyrics and their signature new wave twist on rock and roll.

But how can a band like Metric stand up to an old-time great like Neil Young and Crazy Horse who have put out dozens of albums and played literally thousands of concerts? As a 26-year-old I had the uncomfortable feeling that I might be watching a group of old guys trying to rock out like they were still 20-somethings. Would there be a broken hip involved?
My doubts were pleasantly squashed. The Neil Young and Crazy Horse concert in Vancouver on November 11—the eve of Neil Young’s 67th birthday—was mind-blowingly energetic and fun. Neil Young’s charisma combined with a flow of guitar-rock 10-minute long jams for songs like “Needle and the Damage Done” and “Cinnamon Girl” made for a memorable evening. While some of the jams seemed to go on forever, there was no stopping Young.

Psychadelic Pill is Young’s second album released in 2012, following June’s Americana, a compilation of old folk song covers. Psychadelic Pill is Young’s 35th album, and the first original album released with Crazy Horse since Greendale in 2003. I know, Greendale? It’s hard to keep track of the stack of albums Neil Young has released and the end seems nowhere near.

Watching Metric and Neil Young in the same weekend was the ultimate portrayal of new versus old. Metric is a hip, new wave band that plays songs with a beginning and an end. They’re polished, and Haines owns the stage, although her audience-engaging techniques including saucy and repeated ‘hi’s” made it obvious that the show was all about her. Next, consider Neil Young. Who knows how many stages he’s been on or how many people he’s played to? Yet, he has the ability to connect with an audience that seems to love him regardless of whether he plays the same guitar riff over and over again.

Young’s concert style, true to his genre, spans the decades. As one 30-something in the audience beside me said, “This is like it was in the ‘70s.” I won’t get into how ironic that statement is, but it’s good to see real music played by seasoned pros who are able to make a song up on the spot or continue it on in a guitar-spar for as long as it feels good. Crazy Horse looked like they could have played that concert with Young in their sleep.

It’s hard to compare two generationally and musically different groups like Metric and Neil Young and Crazy Horse, but in terms of ingenuity Neil Young takes the win hands down.

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