Muse – Madison Square Garden – 4/15/13


Better Than: The last two times I’ve seen the band perform live.

With similar amounts of conviction, Muse can weave between whimsical space rockers to heavy metal gods to frenzied, late-’90’s alt rockers that dabble in soft doses of dubstep. The transitions are so subtle sometimes that, upon reflection, the idea of all these fighting genres coexisting in such a neatly presented package seems insane. But maybe Muse are kind of insane.

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With lead singer Matthew Bellamy’s piercing, Freddie Mercury quality falsetto leading the charge, Muse kept their performance theatrical and provocative during the first of two MSG performances this week. It was a more comfortable stage presence than I’ve seen the group display in the past; rather than relying on perfectly timed strobe lights and visual elements, the special effects actually felt just as they should: special. Bellamy’s confident, ’80’s hair metal-level strut was a particularly assertive move that kept the use of the screens surrounding the stage and tiered pyramid of even more screens, that would showcase futuristic, sci-fi clips whenever the pyramid was lowered to the center of the stage, from becoming an overwhelming presence.

“Supremacy” the opening track from 2012’s The 2nd Law gave the show a heavy start with the nasty crunch of the single’s guitar riff and its general grandiosity kicking off the night ahead. Hits like “Supermassive Black Hole,” “Knights of Cydonia,” and “Stockholm Syndrome” were played enthusiastically by the band and heavily danced to by a crowd that seemed to refuse to sit for even a second. Throughout, spurts of Americana were fused into intros and outro, including a Jimi-style “Star-Spangled Banner” before “Panic Station” and later a blazing rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” that forced the stadium to sing along.

The musical precision with which Muse perform live meant there wasn’t much difference between the songs played before our eyes and ears at MSG and the versions on their album, and that lacked a bit of rawness. But it did fit nicely into their slick, Matrix theme.

The most human moments of the night came in the form of Bellamy genuinely connecting with the audience and current events. At one point he hopped off the stage to interact with members of the pit who posed for pictures with the singer and made frantic grabs for him as he sang. He took his time, seeming to truly relish the scene. In light of the day’s tragedy, the band dedicated “Starlight,” the sweet and lovely Black Holes and Revelations single to the people of Boston. The song glowed as brightly as Muse’s theatrics, and with “Survival” as the last hurrah, the band left room wanting more by just gently fading away into the night.

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Critical Bias: I’ve always believed that the baseball scene in Twilight scored by “Supermassive Black Hole” was the most redeeming part of the entire franchise.

Overheard: “…and when they started “Follow Me,” I literally shit myself.”

Random Notebook Dump: What is the demographic/crowd Muse is supposed to attract? I kept wondering that, especially while admiring the extremely mixed crowd. It’s crazy how much of a cult following/successful career they’ve developed without having a Stereotypical Muse Fan people can describe or call out. It’s kind of nice.

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