Thoroughly A(muse)d


Finale Photo by Hannah Tooley

Disclaimer: This article is extremely biased due to the fact that I’ve been a die-hard Muse fan for basically my entire existence (at least, it feels that way).

It’s no mystery why experimental rock band, Muse, is repeatedly named one of the best live acts today by the likes of SPIN Magazine, Rolling Stone, The New Music Express (NME) as well as multiple award shows (BRIT awards, MTV Europe Music Awards, Q Awards, UK Festival Awards to name a few). They have the symphonic melodies and the “anything goes” attitude of Queen, the defiant lyrics and laser extravaganza of Pink Floyd, more “Oohs and Ahhs” than a Fourth of July spectacular and the epicness of a movie soundtrack. Their songs are macabre yet seductive, hardcore jams then introspective ballads, down-with-the-government messages then a slow-building love song; they are bizarre and beautiful and comprise everything that stadium rock should be.

If you were as lucky as me to see their show in Denver last Tuesday, Sept. 17th, you would understand how hard it’s been for me to express all my feelings in a review short enough that it’s publishable even online. Every time I’ve tried writing this, I’ve broken down and wept at how perfectly Muse defines the word “perfection.” It was a singular concert experience, not twelve or so years of schooling, that now inspires me to discover my true calling in life: professional groupie. (Does that still pay?)

The concert was none less than a spiritual awakening as 18,000 souls merged into a sea of rapturous flailing, fist pumping, face melting, glorification of our personal Gods of Rock. The party continued on the streets long after the concert ended; a random fan would suddenly “Wooo!” and then would be answered by a group just as enthusiastically, like some weird mating ritual.

The trio is composed of lead singer/guitar player/pianist, Matthew Bellamy, bassist Christopher Wolstenholme, and drummer Dominic Howard, celebrating their newest album, The 2nd Law, complete with a pyramid of LED screens, lasers galore, and carbon dioxide cannons. What they lack in band members, they compensate for with showmanship; Bellamy thrashed around the stage, Wolstenholme put all other headbangers to shame, and Howard was basically Animal (muppets) incarnate. He kept having to jump to his feet after every song.

But enough blabbing, let’s take a look at the best and bestest moments of the night:

Opening Act: Indie rock band, Cage the Elephant, opened the show with music from their upcoming album, Melophobia, as well as some of their old favorites like “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and “Sabertooth Tiger”. Lead singer, Matthew Shultz, slowly became more and more shirtless as the set went on–not that anyone was really complaining. His onstage antics were reminiscent of Iggy Pop or Mick Jagger, and it seemed like the stage was the only thing holding him down. The coolest part however, was the grand finale when Shultz decided to stage dive into the crowd and perform what I can only describe as yoga in midair (Standing on top of the herd, doing a series of headstands, somersaults etc.). Cage the Elephant brought some much needed punk rock energy to the crowd, who stood transfixed at the glorious sight in front of them.

(Beware: the bass is really loud in this video)

Video by Bryan Callahan

Most Surprising Performance: The award for the most surprising moment of the show has to go to the song “Follow Me”. Even though this song was written for Matt Bellamy’s new son (it features the baby’s heartbeat in the beginning), it never really stood out to me as something really pay attention to. But live? That’s a whole ‘nother story. At the beginning, a single beam of green light shone onto a prism in Bellamy’s hand, creating a cascade of lasers that bound throughout the arena. And when that bass dropped, I nearly fainted on the spot. The full on keyboard, drums, and bass explodes in the chorus, again demonstrating the transition between rock and electronica for the band.

Video by LiveMusicDenver
Follow the laser
Follow the laser
Photo by Hannah Tooley

Biggest Show Stopper: “Unnatural Selection” is a three part song. The beginning features just an organ and vocals from Bellamy, then jumps into a heavy rock riff that any metal head would jam too, before transitioning into a slow, atmospheric section. This song showed how musically talented each of these guys are, being able to handle three totally different styles and link them all into one song. This song overwhelmed the audience with emotions, half the time wanting to sway like drug induced hippies at a Grateful Dead concert, and the other half wanting to thrash around and start a riot.

Video by Nicole Cimino

Biggest Crowd Response: Tie

“Supermassive Black Hole”, is probably one of the major reasons why Muse is popular in the U.S. (It was featured on the Twilight soundtrack). This song is sung entirely in falsetto, and has very complex layering of sultry “oohs” over an almost-spoken chorus. The lyrics address the love-hate struggle in dealing with fame, “Ooh, you set my soul alight/ Glaciers melting in the dead of night/ And the superstars are sucked into the Supermassive”. The audience’s screams nearly burst my eardrums when the song’s opening riff rang through the arena.

Supermassive Bright Light Photo by Hannah Tooley
Supermassive Bright Light
Photo by Hannah Tooley

“M M M M MADNESS” reflected the state I was in when Muse’s most played single on U.S. radio, “Madness” set in. This slow building ballad portrays the perfectly twisted beauty that is a relationship, and definitely makes this one of my favorite songs ever. By the time the climax (you know that note I’m talking about) hit, the throng of people raised their fists in weeping unison, making for a beautiful ending. “Madness” has gotten plenty of radio play recently, so even those that weren’t die-hard fans knew this song. Bellamy also mugged for the camera wearing sunglasses that displayed the lyrics he was singing in real time, so even if you didn’t know the lines, you could figure it out pretty easily.

Video by aggieboudreaux

Best Throwback Performance: The funkalicious groove of “Panic Station” features a David Bowie-esque drum beat, while keeping an “Another One Bites the Dust” bassline. The echos at the end of each lyric reminds me of cheesy, B-Movie alien flicks for some reason (in the best way).

Big Brother is watching you Photo by Hannah Tooley
Big Brother is watching you
Photo by Hannah Tooley

Best Use of Technology: Tie

“Sunburn”, the only song the band played from their first album Showbiz, featured a grand piano that lit up depending on which chords Bellamy played. This song showed the more personal side of Bellamy’s songwriting which often gets lost between the political messages that reside throughout most of their newer music, “I’ll hide from the world/ Behind a broken frame/ And I’ll burn forever/ I can’t face the shame”. This song balances between a tinkling piano melody and a hard rock chorus.

Video by hyena269

“Animals”, a bluesy ballad that relates corporate power-mongers to savage beasts, was also one of the best performances of the night. A ticker of the stock market scrolled across the bottom of the stage, while a creepy business man grinned more and more maniacally from the pyramid screens as the song went on. A harpsichord, played by fourth non-official member Morgan Nicholls, was added to give it an even creepier feeling if that was even possible

video by aggieboudreaux

Best Guitar Solo: Matt Bellamy played the “Star Spangled Banner” on his guitar which was pretty cool considering that the band is British. You can definitely tell that Bellamy takes notes from Jimi Hendrix, but not in a copycat kind of way, which was refreshing.

Best Dubstep in the History of Ever: Muse has consistently shown their ability to evolve throughout their six studio albums, but never more so with their dubstep-inspired song, “Unsustainable”. However, this is no beepy-laptop dubstep, this is dubstep made with real rock instruments, which makes it sound like an evil robot is about to kill us all. This only displays Bellamy’s skill with the guitar and its various effects. “Unsustainable” also features an generic news reporter who discusses the second law of thermodynamics, stating “New energy cannot be created/ And high grade energy is being destroyed/ An economy based on endless growth is unsustainable”. While their other encore song, “Survival” exhibited classic Muse as an ocean-sized rock anthem, “Unsustainable” shows their growth and development as a band.

Video by Ron Royer

Song That Will Go Down in History: Though they’ve probably had to play this song 700 times since it was first released in 2006, the song, “Knights of Cydonia” never ceases to slay the audience with its awesome. From racy lyrics “I’ll show you how God/ Falls asleep on the job”, to blaring trumpet solos, to a fist pumping chorus, everything about this song screams rock anthem and will go down in the history books. Plus the intro jam, “Man with a Harmonica,” had the drama of a western shootout, entrancing the audience with its impending mind-blow. On a side note, this is the only concert I’ve gone to where the audience sang guitar riffs as well as the lyrics to every song.

Video by Nicole Cimino
"You and I must fight for our lives" just in case you all forgot.
“You and I must fight for our lives” just in case you all forgot.
Photo by Hannah Tooley

Bonus: The next song “Liquid State” was performed and written by bass player Chris Wolstenholme, about his own personal struggles with alcoholism. Though you could tell Wolstenholme was not completely comfortable in the spotlight, (he ran back to side stage as soon as the song was over), the audience seemed to connect to him on an intimate level.

In case you still aren’t convinced of their awesomeness, the band along with the Pepsi Center, donated proceeds from the merch sales to victims of the Colorado Floods. Way to be a class act.

The last U.S. tour date for The 2nd Law Tour is October 11th in Austin, TX.

By Hannah Tooley