In the texture of Muse’s “The Resistance” in respect to its tour, one would think the insistence of lead vocalist and guitarist Matt Bellamy in revolution of his classically based training would steer the band to an almost euphoric standard of playing which was more apparent in their previous tour. But at the Staples Center for the second of two shows, Muse proved their rock mettle with an intensely heavy show that only took one break in terminology with a stage show that matched their increasing prevalence in the world rock music scene.
Only three years ago, the inference of “Twilight” did not impact the intensity of the band. The grand element of that success was that their integration was utterly organic. Catherine Hardwicke, director of the first “Twilight”, spoke of the interactive influence the band had on her and with writer Stephanie Meyer in the book’s original inception and the later film adaptation. Bellamy and bassist Christopher Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard however did little to rest of their laurels of that break-though and their stripped down but immensely interactive stage show here proved this element believing (and rightly so) that the music itself speaks for the vision.
What was even more apparent in this tour (supporting their latest album “The Resistance”) was the insistent absence of a continuous piano with Bellamy instead opting more egregiously for his guitar which using a touch sensitive modifier can enhance most any sound. When dragging back to the pure straightahead rock, this is where the true beauty of their sound comes alive.
Case in point was the encore, by far the most electrifying element of the show, which was inlayed by the instrumental “Exogenesis: Part I” which many people interact as an ode to “2001”. Many in the audience seemed a little confused by the use of this as a starter to a resurgence after “Unnatural Selection” finished the main set but that is truly what made the guitar sing because when Bellamy gets going, there is no stopping. Grinding straight into “Stockholm Syndrome” (their impactful breakthough hit), Bellamy is known to end the coda usually with a jump start instrumental which usually is a pre-set that will maybe a minute. Here though, he was ready for the long haul goading on Wolstenholme and Howard for nearly ten minutes at breakneck speed messing around with stop changes galore, proving to all that is a true band, nothing prepackaged in the least.
The cinematic ode proved continual in the encore as Wolstenhome came out solo playing a harmonica as an ode to the old spaghetti westerns. It is a motif that Metallica embraces also but with “Knights Of Cydonia” which closed the night, the entire crowd was given to the rallying cry.
The Queen comparisons lately, which many have made are apt, but within that structure the musicianship is as much part of the scheme as any other. Opening the show with “Uprising” as large sheathes projecting visuals of people walking up stairs and then plummeting as their world crashes around them showed an undeniable political bent to many of the songs which is distinctly understood, especially in connecting with youth.
The interesting dichotomy though, unlike My Chemical Romance (who themselves launched their ode to space rock opera Queen-style with “The Black Parade” Tour), is that the demo of Muse skews slightly older from say 23 to almost 50 which equates them in many ways with the cross-generational U2. Longevity speaks to this as long as Muse’s continuing output can speak to the insistent quality that they have show thus far.
“Resistance”, the title track followed, continuing after into a more vicious rendition of “New Born” (from their early 2001 album “Origins Of Symmetry”) than seen before highlighting a guitar riff rather than the normal piano progression (again harking to the harder feel of the concert).
Next was “Supermassive Black Hole”, the initial “Twilight” track which was released before the movie was even made, which is more anthem based as is “Neutron Star Collision” written late for “Eclipse”. Both seemed to up the ante from the crowd showing the difference that a major franchise can have as a music springboard to a wholly different audience beyond Muse’s baseline and fiercely loyal fans who have been with them from the beginning.
Jumping back with a tongue-in-cheek but also aptly genuine inplay was Bellamy infusing a riff heavy version of “The Star Spangled Banner” while the American Flag was seen on the general admission floor floating through. “Hysteria” then fueled Muse’s more hardened guitar rock cementing the band’s head-banging mentality that Bellamy pushed farther as the outro fanned with the chords of AC/DC’s “Back In Black”.
Turning this progression on its ear is what Muse is best at as the instrumental “Nishe” played to their pillar change as all three members ascended aboard the hydraulics as Bellamy unleashed through on a black grand piano to “United States Of Eurasia” which many considered the closest ode yet to Freddie Mercury.
The only critique involved the mixing component especially with a piano competing with large drum beats. This is always a challenge, primarily in a arena show, and was only noticeable at times when Bellamy sang to the upper register which he is often known to do.
“Ruled By Secrecy”, solo by Bellamy on the piano, was the most trancelike and was exceptionally visceral. In this instance, the concert infinitely grooved with an almost ethereal placement as the words flowed across the screen of the three main pillars. Like many of the songs, the almost “Mad Men” like figures beset by tragedy in silouette perfectly mirrored the texture of the song with infinite knowing.
“Bliss” pushed the texture back to rock with a synth heavy progression which was wonderfully balanced. Unlike the helping playback of the previous concert tour, the inclusion of a keyboard player here but carefully hidden gave credence to a even more live sound by the band. To clarify, the last tour was exceptional but left a couple thoughts as to the balance of live versus supporting tracks which sometimes is simply necessary to recreate certain sounds from the album which is always of importance to fans.
While Bellamy disappeared offstage for a few moments, Wolstenholme and Howard were able to show the true intensity of their playing that for all regards can exist without Bellamy who undeniably is the front man. The interesting structure is that it is only Howard who speaks to the audience offering the analogy/similarity with Lars Ulrich of Metallica. “Helsinki Jam” which featured the drummer and bassist on the same pedestal was full throttle rock that distinctified beyond the doubt the accessibility of the band purely on a music level.
“Unclosed Desires”, off “Resistance”, played more to an interesting synth motif while “Starlight” brought the crowd back to a more anthem progression with the entire Staples Center nearly pulsing with a sense of rhythm particularly the floor which jumped with an almost “Radio Gaga” fervor.
“Plug In Baby” revolved the state back to an electomagnetic tension while “Time Is Running Out” played to a more clock ticking rhythm feeding to a frenzy in the crowd. The harder edge was particularly pointed in this song but also, like other elements in the concert, offer an ode to other similar bands (like Pink Floyd) while still retaining an exceptional uniqueness all their own. The irony in terms of this rested in outro of the song which was a cover ode by Bellamy to The Animal’s “House Of The Rising Sun” thus reinforcing the cross generational persuasion of the crowd.
“Unnatural Selection” closed out the basis with an interim that understood its pure rock origins which is what Muse wanted to make sure its LA music industry crowd got: a sense of the hard edge of the band has embraced but with all the stylings of a world class rock band that can play from Timbuktu to Easter Island to Berlin to Los Angeles and not skip a beat and, more importantly, not lose its poignancy.
AEG and Image.net just provided IR with a photo of Michael Jackson’s last rehearsal. The man was undeniably an entertainer. He will be missed.