Emily Haines Church of the Redeemer, Toronto ON - December 17

Following her appearance last summer at the El Mocambo, the prospect of another Emily Haines solo show was rather unnerving. At that gig, the intense Metric singer had played an hour of piano dirges without so much as facing the audience or saying one word to them between songs. The only time the overheated, uncomfortable crowd perked up was when she offered up a Metric tune or two. This time around, there were no Metric songs to be heard, and she still didn't look at, or speak to, the audience, but the gothic setting of the church proved a better fit for Haines's solo material. Whether or not her austere delivery (like a petrified young girl playing her first piano recital) is deliberate, it fits well with her eerie, fragile songs, which come off more like sound poems than pop tunes, quite fitting for the daughter of the late avant-garde poet Paul Haines. As such, it was Haines's lyrics, sung in a hushed yet chillingly direct voice, that had the most impact — I found myself remembering most of the words to songs I'd heard for the first time at the El Mo nearly six months earlier. However, while her simple synth lines work well with Metric's edgy pop, the rudimentary structures of her solo songs simply made one wonder if she didn't know more chords. Film stills by Canuck auteur Guy Maddin, manipulated by local ambient guru Todor Kobakov (aka Cy Scobie) on a screen behind Haines, were a nice touch, adding to the overall surrealistic feel of the performance. After the show, a friend commented, "That was like sitting in a warm bath after taking some pills." Indeed. Metric's burgeoning popularity undoubtedly had something to do with both of Haines's back-to-back solo shows selling out quickly, but while one had to feel for any fans of the band who wandered in unaware, Haines's willingness to try something entirely different suggests that she's not interested in being the flavour of the month.