Sunday, September 26, 2010

Concert Review: Muse at Staples Center in Los Angeles - Techno-Mages of Epic Art Rock

Muse makes music fit for science fiction, fantasy, and, yeah superheroes (saw that coming, didn’t ya?).  But really, one can imagine the Silver Surfer spanning the spaceways or the Green Lantern Corps seeking justice and finding wonders in galaxies far, far away with Muse songs as the backdrop. But for all the cosmic trappings, at the heart of the group’s sound is passion matched by fiery craft.  And that’s what drove the British band’s performance at Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles this past Saturday night (Sept. 25).
The Resistance (CD/DVD)
The show was the first of two nights at the venue, following a concert a couple of days prior at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Muse could’ve easily played one huge stadium gig, but the arena shows – this one and the others, by all reports – were more satisfying than a single stadium spectacle, in fact, rave-worthy.
Muse frontman singer-guitarist-keyboardist Matt Bellamy may not be a loquacious out-there kind of guy in a Bono or Bruce mold, but he is a bandleader and a mesmerizing player. His plaintive vocals, which range from tenor intonations to melodramatic falsetto, rides atop musical constructs that tap into art rock, prog-rock, world, electronic and dance sounds, plus plenty of hard edge and even metal riff thunder. There’s guitar firepower, mood-casting, raging and supple rhythms and big ‘ol beats, too.
Muse, France 2010 - Photo by Danny North
Bellamy, bassist/keyboardist Christopher Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard played on two levels – the usual stage and also risers, surrounded by multiple video screens flashing their images and other often eye-catching visuals ranging from intricate graphics to scorched earth and tranquil nature views. This was complimented by banks of mind-twist lighting plus lasers as well.
While Muse’s current release Resistance isn’t as captivating as the superb Black Holes and Revelations - the album that really sent the band into the success stratosphere - it certainly has a number of strong tracks. Mixing those numbers with Muse’s past material made for a stellar set list overall and just a few lulls, and even that depended on the level of Muse fan as many were enraptured the entire night.
Muse, Glastonbury, UK 2010 - Photo by Danny North
The show kicked off with the glam-rock stomp of “Uprising,” (with it’s loopy little Doctor Who-ish sub-theme) followed by the challenge of “Resistance” and racing “New Born.”
The sold-out arena roared for the space funk of “Supermassive Black Hole”  (aka the soundtrack for vampire baseball in the first Twilight film)  A flash of the “Star Spangled Banner,” gave way to bubble-and-blast churn of “Hysteria” and its demand of “I want it all.”  The titanic trio sound was augmented in some cases by not tracks or programming, but by longtime tour keyboardist Morgan Nicholls (considered by some hardcore fans to be an unofficial fourth member).
Black Holes & RevelationsBellamy sat at the piano for the band’s version of “Feeling Good,” a Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley tune that dates back more than 45 years to musical productionThe Roar of the Greasepaint, the Small of the Crowd.  Next up was the original tension-wrought ballad “Guiding Light.”
After a slithering “Undisclosed Desires,” the band launched into the pulsating bliss of “Starlight” (still their biggest of the biggies) and while parts of the crowds had sung along to other songs, this one brought the loudest participation, especially for the refrain. It was a start of a killer troika of tunes that also included the ripping “Plug In Baby,” and then, “Time is Running Out,” set off by Bellamy playing a bit of the classic “House of the Rising Sun,” and the audience joining in to sing the lyrics.
Muse, Netherlands 2010 - Photo by Hans-Peter Van Velthoven
The push and pull “Unnatural Selection” – another Resistance number – closed out the main set.  The encore began with “Exogenesis: Symphony, Part 1: Overture” (making one wonder if they’d play the entire three-part space opera, which is a bit of faltering bloat, really), then came the churning sonic assault of “Stockholm Syndrome” and a final epic in “Knights of Cydonia,” which still sounds (as I've said before) like the lost theme for a BBC sci-fi series or mystical sword-and-sorcery film.  Or according the wife, like Iron Maiden. Fair enough. 
Though Muse does often evoke fantasy imagery, many themes and lyrics are rooted in tightly wound emotions, working on multiple levels as the songs may detail individual struggles or communal battles against all manner of darkness. But ultimately, light emerges and that’s key to the Muse and the wonder it creates on record and especially, in concert.
Muse opened some dates for U2 last year during its 360°Tour and now, with Bono sidelined following back surgery, the group not scheduled to play again until next year, it looks like the front-runner as the world’s biggest band, certainly in all manner of rock.  Sure, there’s Coldplay, while surely warm and inviting, that sense of power beyond the realm isn’t quite there, even if the songs are.  Arcade Fire might be a contender, too, but isn’t at that level quite yet and remains an eclectic, albeit ever more popular delight.   At this moment, the men of Muse stand out above all the rest, masterful techno-mages conjuring a mysterious magic all their own.

Muse, Staples Center, Sept. 25 Setlist
New Born
Supermassive Black Hole
MK Ultra
United States Of Eurasia
Feeling Good (Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley cover)
Guiding Light
Helsinki Jam
Undisclosed Desires
Plug In Baby
Time Is Running Out
Unnatural Selection

Exogenesis: Symphony, Part 1: Overture
Stockholm Syndrome
Knights of Cydonia

No comments:

Post a Comment