It didn't look like much at first.
It was just a big stage and a big light show. It was a suitable enough setting for most arena-rock bands -- but it seemed surprisingly simplistic for a British trio that has built much of its popularity, at least in this country, by delivering huge, flashy spectacles in concert.
Then the mammoth inverted pyramid built from dozens of video screens lowered from the ceiling, providing a scene not unlike when the spaceship arrived in Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and fans knew they were watching the right band.
The alt-rock crew, which has long ranked as one of the best arena-rock acts in the business, definitely hasn't lost its flair
Fortunately, the music was every bit as big as the show.
I don't care what you think of Muse's studio works, which have varied in quality from marvelous (2006's "Black Holes and Revelations") to mediocre (last year's "The 2nd Law"). Anyone who is a fan of expertly crafted arena rock, especially of the high-tech variety pioneered by U2 in the '90s, should definitely see Muse in concert.
The trio -- vocalist-guitarist Matt Bellamy, bassist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard -- kicked off the show with the new album's
Bellamy was full of energy as he worked the strikingly barren stage, bordered by a semicircle of approximately six-foot-tall video screens, as the band continued into its latest single, "Supremacy." Bellamy then burned through a solo guitar version of "The Star-Spangled Banner," which would've made Jimi Hendrix proud, as the gateway to "Hysteria" (from 2003's "Absolution").
The guitar pyrotechnics continued on "Supermassive Black Hole" -- the seriously funky offering from "Black Holes and Revelations" -- as Bellamy played the poor man's Tom Morello, rubbing his strings to mimic the sound of a turntable. That tune, which sounds like the best Prince song the Purple One never wrote, bumped and grinded to a conclusion, eventually making way for the anthemic title track to 2009's "The Resistance."
But there was no resisting — especially not once the inverted pyramid came into view, dropping jaws across the arena. It initially looked like nothing more than a row of video screens, until it began to unfurl, with the tip moving
The music remained at full charge, powered along by thunderclap beats we could no longer see being made, and even seemed to rise up a notch as the multiple LED screens on the pyramid flashed wild images.
Muse had done it again. The band gambled big time, in what would surely have been a losing proposition for the majority of lesser-arena-rockers (which includes pretty much everybody else), and won big time. It was the biggest showstopper moment I've seen in years. Yet, it was also one that didn't slow this show down one iota.
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