Muse - Staples Center - 1/23/13 (With Photos)
See also: Slideshow of Muse w/ Band of Skulls
Better Than: A night at the opera, but not, like, A Night at the Opera.
In the world of arena rock, a band's primary challenge often lies in finding a balance between making a large enough spectacle to thrill all the way to the cheap seats, and the overwrought cheesiness that looks dumb to the folks up close. British trio Muse pulled it off last night at Staples Center, with tight but grand performance built upon their signature light-speed-stampede-through-outer-space sound and the sleek visual aesthetic to match. It was the best of modern arena rock, and it went like this:
8:15pm: The show begins with "The 2nd Law: Unsustainable" from their 2012 release The 2nd Law. It is an apt opener, instantly creating a larger than life vibe and also reminding us that Muse messed around a bit with dubstep on this last album. This song sounds biblical, massive, frenzied. This is going to be awesome.
8:25pm: "Supremacy" sounds huge, ominous, threatening, like an updated take on U2's "Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me" fused with a glammed out James Bond theme song. Singer Matthew Bellamy's voice is everything it is on the album, maybe better. He sounds like Freddie Mercury.
8:36pm: A massive pyramid of LED panels descends from the ceiling.
8:40pm: The group tears into "Panic Station," Muse's take on electro funk boogie. It's definitely a departure from their standard glam rock metal vibe, and may be the song that caused my most British friend to complain that "the new Muse album is terrrrrrrible" upon its release. He changed his mind, though, when the group stole the show during the closing ceremony of the Olympics with "Survival." Something about Muse as a source of national pride. Anyways.
8:43pm: Fucking killer guitar shredding action!
8:48pm: The group dips back to their 2001 release Origin of Symmetry with the soaring "Bliss," which is bombastically theatrical guitar rock in the tradition of Queen, more so than, say, the Stones or Zeppelin or other Brit rockers influenced largely by American blues.
8:50pm: Down on the floor, the fist pumping is becoming more abundant and well-synchronized.
8:53pm: The thematic content of most Muse songs share the same epic nature of their sound, with all the talk of supremacy, absolution, black holes, survival, resistance, etc.
8:57pm: What's really incredible is that just four guys -- Bellamy, bassist Wolstenholme, drummer Dominic Howard and a keyboard player that sits in for live shows -- can make a sound so big. And is it just me or does Bellamy kind of look like one of the vampires from Twilight? (Note: Post-show research finds that Bellamy's IMDB page contains credits for THREE of the Twilight films -- Muse contributed to the soundtracks).
8:55pm: The visuals during "Animals" reflect on Wall Street greed, complete with a stock market ticker. "Why are they showing that? I don't like it. I don't want to think about the stock market right now," says a woman behind me. This song feels like a lull, but maybe everyone has just become momentarily depressed about their finances.