Haines: Her Way.
Last night, I went to see a solo concert by Emily Haines, the lead singer of Metric. What I love about Haines is that detached voice of hers that encourages listeners to fill in the blanks: P_IN, L__S, S__NES_, _EAL_US_, DE__ES_I__, M__ _A_ LO__, J_Y, D__IR_, AN__R.
In her band Metric, these spaces are filled with a constant beat from the bass, which keeps you going like a clock ticking towards deadline. Any anxiety is plugged with rawk.
When it’s just her and a grand piano and bits of Guy Maddin’s films projected on a screen, however – as it was last night at at the Church of the Redeemer in Toronto -- the blanks are all you think about. It’s unsettling. You listen to the gap between her voice and the piano and try to decipher her emotions and, in the process, your own emotions. It’s like trying to see an object behind a column, but you can’t walk around to the other side. It’s like peering over police tape, trying to figure out what happened to that neighbour you knew only in passing, and silently hoping that you don’t end up eaten by your cats, too.
It didn’t soothe any nerves that Haines didn’t say a single word during the show. No hellos, no banter, no goodbyes. A quick bow at the end and that’s it.
Not particularly satisfying or emotionally cathartic, which is what rock concerts and cabarets are supposed to be. It was more like a hollowing out, like we were half a cantaloupe and she was eating us with a spoon.
As an evening of theatre or art or experience, though, it was worthwhile. It wasn’t a smoothly paved road; it was a speedbump. It’s one of those events that your mind wanders during and you have ambiguous feelings about at the end, but the next morning you wake up and feel like that was really something.
The feeling leaving last night was a little bit like the feeling you get after meeting an ex-girlfriend for coffee. An ex-girlfriend with whom you supposedly had a “mutual break-up,” but really it was her that left.
She was as fun as you remembered, but her laughs weren’t as full and her charm was contained. And your conversation was a little bit more about her job and her family and your job and your family and a little less about her or you. And the stories you told her were a little more about the stories and a little less about the way you told them. And you got a warm hug at the end, but you remember warmer warms, different shades of warmth entirely.
She seemed less beautiful, but somehow more real.
And you wonder who this person is, who you thought you knew so well.
Is she seeing someone else? You think: I just want to know. I don’t care. I just want to know.