Concert Review – Muse (IZOD Center, April 19th, 2013)

ImageI remember reading from a reliable survey a year or so ago that British rockers Muse were charted as the number one band in terms of spending the most money on their live performances (stage effects, lighting, lasers, moving platforms, etc.). If you have ever attended a Muse concert, you won’t find this statistic surprising in the slightest. Seeing Muse live is the most out-of-body experience I have ever gone through, and after the show (this being my second Muse concert), I drove home trying to discern if what I witnessed had actually just happened…

Last Friday, April 19th, was my first time attending a stadium show in the general admission section, and I think it’s safe to say I won’t be able to fully enjoy a stadium concert again unless I’m in GA. That being said, I was already in a state of disbelief before the show even started. Biffy Clyro, a Scottish rock outfit, were scheduled to open the show, but due to an illness within the band, they were unable to make it out. Dead Sara, a female-fronted blues rock band from L.A., filled in as replacements, which made sense since they had already opened for Muse for a good chunk of the US leg of their tour. I quickly realized this was a blessing in disguise because even though I had previously never heard of Dead Sara, they blew anything I had ever heard by Biffy Clyro clean out of the water. These guys really knew how to rock. From alt-rock opener “Sorry For It All” to blues rock masterpiece “Blue Was The Feeling For You,” Dead Sara had astounding stage presence and stamina, and by the end of their short six song set, I knew instantly that I needed to get my hands on a copy of their CD. They’re one of the few bands these days that keeps rock n’ roll alive, due in large part to front-woman Emily Armstrong’s overwhelming howl when she’s on the mic.

After a brief interlude, it was finally time for the main attraction. To the tune of “The 2nd Law: Isolated System,” the final song off of Muse’s most recent album, The 2nd Law, an enormous inverted LED pyramid slowly descended from the ceiling of the stage (see picture above). It finally reached the stage and lit up, illuminating the entire arena. After a very bombastic intro, the pyramid once again rose, revealing the trio underneath, who went straight into “Supremacy,” the powerful James Bond-esque opening track off of The 2nd Law. The crowd instantly went nuts.

Speaking of the crowd, to go off on a quick tangent, I have never seen a more diverse group of people at a concert. The fans around me ranged from kids my age to middle-aged parents (some who even brought their young children), but everyone knew the words and sang along with frontman Matt Bellamy. This also proves an older point I once made that since Muse has transcended the boundaries of being defined by any one particular “genre,” everyone is bound to like at least one of their songs, which explains why I was surrounded by such a motley crew.

After Muse let their audience know they were coming full force, bassist Chris Wolstenholme began the vicious slap bass intro of “Panic Station,” the band’s first funk song, also from The 2nd Law. It’s one of those tunes you just can’t help but groove to. Then came an onslaught of fan favorites, including “Supermassive Black Hole,” “Resistance,” “Hysteria,” and “Knights Of Cydonia.” With each new song, the band seemed to grow in bombast and bravado, to the point that I thought they literally couldn’t go any further.

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When Muse perform live, they stick very close to their studio recordings, but with an added drive that really gives the songs a huge boost. They also add unique outros and intros to their songs. At Friday’s show, Matt rocked a Star-Spangled Banner intro to “Hysteria,” as well as the beginning of “House Of The Rising Sun” before Chris kicked off “Time Is Running Out,” a classic off Muse’s Absolution. For the band’s last song before their short encore set, a giant roulette wheel appeared on the LED screens surrounding the stage, and depending on the result, Muse would either play “New Born” off their early album, Origin Of Symmetry, or “Stockholm Syndrome” from Absolution. The audience was treated to the raucous latter track, which when played live, bordered nearly on all-out metal. Speaking of unique outros, the band followed up “Stockholm Syndrome” with the outro of Rage Against The Machine’s “Freedom,” and the crowd went crazy. Rage is reported as having always been Matt Bellamy’s favorite band, so it would make sense the band would still cover their tunes after all these years.

For their encore, Muse returned to the stage to play two more songs, the first being “Starlight” off Black Holes & Revelations, yet another huge crowd pleaser. The band decided to close the show with “Survival,” their less-than-satisfactory anthem from The 2nd Law, which was used as the official song of the London 2012 Olympics. Whether it was for commercial reasons or just a poor decision, I was rather disappointed Muse chose to end the entire show with this song rather than an older classic (I would have preferred Origin Of Symmetry‘s “Plug In Baby” personally).

Despite this drawback, the only other complaints I had with the show were minimal in comparison. A small fight broke out between some drunk adolescent and a parent who was trying to protect their kids, but luckily the event staff promptly kicked the inebriated individual out of the venue. Also, as the band went into “Uprising” off The Resistance, Wolsetnholme suffered a bass malfunction and had to switch basses halfway through the song’s intro. Just goes to show that no one’s perfect live. When Chris began pounding out the distorted riff of the song’s intro with his fresh bass, the crowd roared with approval, and the show went on.

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There were so many incredible high points throughout the night that I had trouble deciding what my favorite moment was. There were the 7+ glorious minutes of “Knights Of Cydonia,” my all-time favorite song that never fails to disappoint, especially with the chilling harmonica intro. There were also the brief instances of what felt like mini-raves during two of Muse’s newer electronic jams, “Follow Me” and the surprisingly amazing dubstep breakdowns of “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable.” However, I think the highlight of the night came during the blistering ending of “Uprising.” In true Muse fashion, Bellamy became violently unstable while ripping a solo on his guitar, at which point he took the guitar off his shoulder and proceeded to heave the instrument with full force straight through the bass drum of drummer Dominic Howard’s set. I had only ever seen Muse destroy their equipment in YouTube videos, so to see this kind of raw chaos live was pure entertainment. It also made me realize how strongly Nirvana played a role in Muse’s career.

Despite the lack of a replacement bass drum head, the band came back out for their encore, and Howard confidently rocked on with a gaping hole in the front of his kit. To see Muse live again was really a treat, and as I said, there is really nothing quite like it. The combined strength of Bellamy, Wolstenholme, and Howard creates such an overpowering dynamic onstage that it makes you wonder how this band could ever get any bigger than they are. I left the arena that night with tour poster in hand, completely satisfied. Without a doubt, it was that kind of passion and electricity that Muse put out every night for their fans that elevated them to becoming one of the biggest bands in the UK – and the world.

-Joe MacPhee

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Full Setlist:

(Intro) The 2nd Law: Isolated System

1. Supremacy

2. Panic Station

3. Supermassive Black Hole (Rage Against The Machine’s “Revolver” outro)

4. Resistance

5. Hysteria (Star-Spangled Banner intro, AC/DC’s “Back In Black” outro)

6. Knights Of Cydonia (Man With A Harmonica intro)

7. Monty Jam

8. Explorers

9. Follow Me

10. United States Of Eurasia

11. Liquid State

12. Madness

13. Time Is Running Out (House Of The Rising Sun intro)

14. Undisclosed Desires

15. Stockholm Syndrome (Rage Against The Machine’s “Freedom” outro)

16. The 2nd Law: Unsustainable

17. Uprising

Encore:

18. Starlight

19. Survial

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