Monday, February 4, 2013

Muse Concert: 2nd Lawful Good

Playing the 'what do you think they will open with?' game before a concert is always a lot of fun. Will it be an old favourite, or something from the new album? Will it be slow and dramatic, or heavy and bombastic? At last night's Muse concert, the answer to the first question was something new, and the answer to the second was 'yes'.
I had said that if they led off with a track from the 2nd Law, their latest album, then the lead single ("Madness") was too slow, so my hope would be for either the brilliantly Bond-like "Supremacy" or the cinematic/dubstep instrumental "The 2nd Law: Unsustainable". These turned out to be the first two songs played, only in reverse order. "Unsustainable" was a great choice, as it opens with a simple yet urgent guitar rhythm, punctuated by ominous fanfares, while a female newsreader's voice intones a litany of entropy, climaxing with the assertion that 'an economy based on endless growth is UNSUSTAINABLE', the last word being usurped by a Cylonish vocoder, and that's when you get The Drop.

Muse has a reputation for both dynamic live shows and creative and imaginative staging, and this tour did not disappoint on either count. A circular bank of video monitors wrapped around the stage behind the band at their feet, while another ran underneath the stage at floor level. The real visual treat came during the third song, "Supermassive Black Hole", when an inverted pyramid of monitors and lights descended from the ceiling, and I half expected Roy Neary to climb out of it.
There were fewer lasers this time than the 2010 concert, but if anything, this staging was even more creative and engaging. As the song "Animals" played, the banner monitor displayed a stock ticker while the pyramid played scenes portraying the rise and fall of a greedy or careless broker. Near the end of the concert, the circular bank turned into a roulette wheel displaying two songs from the back catalogue. Sure enough,when the 'ball' had dropped into "Stockholm Syndrome", the band obligingly tore into it like a kid opening a birthday present. A very playful way to end the pre-encore set, even if it made me sad knowing I wouldn't be hearing "New Born", which had opened the last tour. The only other disappointment for me was not getting to hear "Hysteria" live, as it has one of the all-time greatest bass lines in rock. Still, I did get to hear one of my favourites from "Black Holes and Revelations", the album that introduced me to Muse, when they played "Map of the Problematique".
Even though some of the people I attended with were there as fans of spectacle more so than of the band itself, we all agreed it was truly an epic show. Even the opening act, Britain's Band of Skulls, made a good impression on most of us. I'm surprised and a bit saddened that the show wasn't sold out, especially as Muse recently sold out three nights at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles. Sandra Sperounes of the Edmonton Journal estimated the crowd at a mere 7,000; surely the Superbowl couldn't account for that, could it? Thankfully,what crowd there was more than made up for its size with a vocal appreciation for the band.
The whole darned family came with the lads and I last night (and Rev. James, the biggest Muse fan I know), and Fenya and Glory both had a great time at their first real rock concert. Glory even splurged so she could get her first concert tour t-shirt, while the more practically-minded Fenya picked up a very sharp looking water bottle. We all went to great lengths afterwards to explain that not all rock shows will be like this, and they should probably set the bar significantly lower for the next concert they attend.
I am insatiably curious as to where Muse will progress musically next; as Pete said last night, "The 2nd Law" appears to have at least a half-dozen iterations of the same band: rock, funk, dubstep, balladeers, Bond, and so on. They already sound distinct from the band that recorded "Black Holes and Revelations" only two albums ago, despite having been together for almost two decades now. As long as their live shows continue to be this energetic and entertaining though, I will not be missing any.

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for your positive MUSE review! And for posting the setlist!
    I am a 59 year old MUSE fan...I'll admit, I too, was looking forward to "NewBorn" but really enjoyed the newer pieces that I am not as familiar with...
    I am still basking in last night's "high" and not appreciating some of the official yours was most appreciated!