The inherent problem with a highly stylized arena show is making it feel immersive for an audience. Between the lighting, visuals, cues, lasers and, in the case of this show, confetti-filled eyeball balloons, it can be easy for artists to forget that the audience is even there. The Devon, England-based trio Muse, however, pulled off the difficult task at their concert at the TD Bank Garden on Saturday night, March 6th.
Los Angeles’s Silversun Pickups opened the show in support of their second LP, "Swoon." The band’s distortion-heavy indie rock played well to an impatient yet upbeat crowd, particularly the closing, "Lazy Eye," with a building tension and subsequent release complimented by keyboardist/sampler Joe Lester’s textural additions that got the crowd rocking, rolling, and ready for the main act.
The eyeball balloons popped to douse the audience in red and white confetti; the lasers bathed them in neon green pinpoints and Muse wowed them with an electric performance that was equal parts musicianship and theatrics.
The general sentiment from an audience whenever they attend an arena rock concert is, "I know you play a nearly identical show every other night, but I spent a significant portion of my last paycheck to be here; at least try to make it feel special." Forever a fan-centric band, the trio of guitarist/pianist/vocalist Matthew Bellamy, bassist/backup vocalist Christopher Wolstenholme, and drummer Dominic Howard delivered on that request. The band fed off the crowd’s energy throughout the concert. They made a concerted effort to play to those audience members seated behind the stage, and Bellamy interrupted the middle of "Plug in Baby" to laugh at a portly gentleman who had been flipped upside down while trying to crowd surf. The band created a synergy and a unique personal connection with the audience.
The extravagant stage setup did justice to the space-rock genre Muse is sometimes classified in. The main features of the show were the three menacing, futuristic pillars reaching from stage to ceiling on which the band, or in some cases, individual members, were raised and lowered. These pillars doubled as video monitors, displaying stunning visuals, the band, and the pit throughout the show. Bellamy also sang from four mics — one in front, two on auxiliary platforms on either side of the stage, and one in the back of the stage facing the seats behind, giving the audience different perspectives of the performance. The lasers, balloons, choreographed lighting, rotating drum kit and colored CO2 spouting from the stage were all nice touches, as was the especially cool piano that lit up in accordance with the corresponding keys Bellamy played in the Queen-inspired "United States of Eurasia" and the poppy, though overstated, "Feeling Good."
The band rattled through a setlist featuring both popular tunes like "Supermassive Black Hole," as made famous by it’s inclusion in the “Twilight” soundtrack (the tween girls made their presence known during the song) and "Knights of Cydonia," the legendary Guitar Hero song, to deep cuts like the melancholy instrumental "Nishe." Highlights included harrowing visuals and a loud audience sing-along during another fan favorite, "Time Is Running Out," while lowlights included both theatrical and technical difficulties. The screen obscuring Howard in the beginning of the show didn’t drop in time with the other two bandmembers, creating a comical scenario reminiscent of the pod scene in “This Is Spinal Tap,” and Bellamy’s guitar cut in and out during "New Born," causing him to exchange it for a new one mid-song. These snafus were more than made up for by the sheer talent of the band (Bellamy’s solo right after switching guitars was a thing of beauty, as was Wolstenholme and Howard’s rhythm section jam) and their adoring audience didn’t seem to mind.
The trio favored extended riffs and jams in absence of the normal rock star chitchat, adding something new to songs most of audience has heard many times before. Muse is so comfortable with where they are musically that are willing to let the show do the talking, a refreshing trait in an arena rock show.
Despite the thousands of dollars of equipment backing them, Muse managed to make the show feel human and real — during that show, they were totally the audience’s, and they received an enthusiastic response from the Garden, culminating in Howard exclaiming, "You guys fucking rock," near the end of the evening.
Muse rocked like I thought no band that was on a “Twilight” soundtrack could. The show wasn’t really that — it was more a spectacle in which the theatrics matched the grandiosity of Muse’s music. If you haven’t gotten to do so, see this band live, even if you’re not a huge fan. This is the Queen of our generation and they are creating an amazing live experience unlike any other touring act today.