[ATTENDED: January 31, 2016] Muse
I have liked Muse since their debut album, although I really got into them with Origin of Symmetry. Given their over the top sound and Radiohead meets Queen meets really heavy metal I am astonished that they are as popular as they are.
I wished that I had seen their previous tour because I really liked their last album, and while I enjoyed Drones, it was a bit more basic than the over the top sound of The 2nd Law. Nevertheless, I was pretty excited to see them live, especially when my friend Joe said they were the best show he has ever seen.
And I have to concur with him. This show was outstanding. There was nothing disappointing about this show at all. Even before the show started, they had a Drone Processing Entrance for anyone with general admission seats (I didn’t know there was such a thing, but they all got to stand on the floor inches from the band, which is pretty cool). The stage setup itself was spectacular–a circular stage with two catwalks extending out to either side–like a bow tie–which guitarist/singer/superathlete Matthew Bellamy and bassist (and growler) Chris Wolstenholme ran to throughout the show.
Just before the band came out, a dozen stormtrooper-looking guys with batons and blue glowing lights came out to “patrol” the perimeter while they played “Straight Outta Compton.” And then the lights went out.
The giant orbs lit and up descended from the rafters while the prerecorded “Drones” played. These drone balloons had lights on the bottom which scoped out the audience.
And then the band came out and launched into “Dead Inside” while the drones floated around above them. It was cool to see Wolstenholme’s bass with the led lights on the fretboard. And before I forget, drummer Dominic Howard is a monster. His set was right in the center of the stage anchoring the whole business. And his drums were loud and impressive and super fast when needed. I also liked that at the end of the show, he ran to both sides of the bow tie stage to wave to fans.
They jumped right into “Interlude/Hysteria” from Absolution and during the end of the song, Bellamy broke into the riff from Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” and a bit of AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” And then they launched into “Map of the Problematique” (from Black Holes and Revelations). I was concerned that the whole set was going to be songs from Drones, but clearly that wasn’t the case (although it was very light on The 2nd Law, which makes sense since they just toured that album so heavily, and nothing from Origin of Symmetry.
The band left through the catwalks (there were openings where the guys could sneak off from time to time) while they played the orchestral track from The 2nd Law. This accompanied some excellent screens which dropped down in the middle of the stage. They projected all kinds of interesting things up there. And it was cool that you could see the screens from both sides and see through the screens at the same time. At one point the screens depicted giant hands with strings coming down which made it look like the musicians were puppets. That was pretty awesome.
They played “The Handler” from Drones which allowed Bellamy’s voice to soar. And then it was time for “Supermassive Black Hole” which was the groovy, almost funky section of the night. Then the band disappeared below stage and “Prelude” which led not into “Survival” but into “Starlight” (two Black Holes songs in a row). “Starlight” (with that notable piano riff) was cool because they sent out these giant black balloons to float around the general admission area (yes, they got all the cool things). When the balloons popped (mostly when Wolstenholme popped them with his bass) confetti came out.
Speaking of piano, there was a keyboardist/piano player who emerged from the center of the stage near the drummer on crucial tracks. His sound really augmented the songs (and allowed Bellamy to not play anything a few times–he ran around with the guitar on his back before swinging the guitar around and wailing again). But that doesn’t mean that Bellamy didn’t play piano too.
While Wolstenholme was popping the final balloon, Bellamy rose from under the far bow tie playing a grand piano. If there was one disappointment in the set it was that Bellamy was on the other side of the room for this. Although we got to see Wolstenholme up close which was pretty cool. The piano was crisp and clean and sounded amazing. I secretly hoped that the piano would rise again on our side of the bow tie, but it never did (that’s asking much, right?).
The poppiest moment came when they played “Madness.” For this song Wolstenholme played a bass with a midi pad at the bottom. This is what I really wanted to see. I wanted to watch Bellamy and Wolstenholme play these amazing technological wonders. But Bellamy never played his (okay so there was some disappointment in the show, I guess). But it was awesome to watch Wolstenholme squinch the pad to affect the sounds he was making. The picture to the right is one I stole from someone else, but it really shows the midi section (the web tells me it is a Status Kitara Doubleneck Bass).
They played “Resistance” and a few songs later “Uprising” the only two songs from The Resistance. “Uprising” was a great sing-along with all the lights going on at appropriate times and other good stage show tricks like that.
When they played “Reapers,” they used the opening JFK speech and printed the words on the screen, which may be the first time I actually listened to what Kennedy was saying on the record. Of course, once Bellamy broke into that opening riff, the song really took off. He ran all over the stage playing that riff.
“Time is Running Out” was surprisingly full-sounding given that it is basically just bass and drums until Bellamy starts playing along too. He sang most of the first half of the song on our side of the stage. There was a small video camera on a stick that he sang into.
During “The Globalist,” a big powerful riff-driven song with intense bass and drumming, they pulled out all the stops when a gigantic blimp/airplane thing floated around the stage shining spotlights on everyone. I took a brief video (phone dying at this point) which you can see on Instagram.
The set ended with a reprise of “Drones” and the balloons coming down again to hover around us.
For the encore, they played “Mercy” which sounded great. And then Wolstenholme played the harmonica intro from Ennio Morricone’s “Man with a Harmonica.” The girl next to me and I were shocked to see that after the song he tossed the harmonica to the fans. But that led into the awesome closer that is “Knights of Cydonia.” This song has such a massive riff and great sing along section that we all left the arena on a massive high.
When the show was over the guys threw picks and sticks in the general admission section and then walked out high fiving fans along the way. It was amazing that after all that spectacle, they just walked out of the stage area.
I have seen a lot of shows lately. I tend to like smaller shows because they are more intimate. But I do love spectacle, and this show was hands down the best spectacle I’ve ever seen. The fact that the music sounded great (that Bellamy can play all that live and hit those high notes) only made it that much more amazing.
So, when’s the new album and tour, guys?
|Map of the Problematique|
|“The 2nd Law: Isolated System”|
|Supermassive Black Hole|
|Time is Running Out|
|Man with a Harmonica|
|Knights of Cydonia|