Live Review: Muse at Staples Center
Muse performs at Staples Center on Saturday, September 25.
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — Alt-prog rockers Muse are running out of places to play in the world. Since being signed to Madonna’s Maverick Records in late 1998, the UK band has spent the last 11 ½ years building up their global domination. During this time, millions of records have been sold, numerous awards have been awarded and tour dates supporting Red Hot Chili Peppers, My Chemical Romance and U2 have been completed. Quite a feat considering the group started out playing small L.A. venues like the Roxy Theatre and Viper Room before moving onto practically every major arena, amphitheater, outdoor festival and stadium in the world.
Some may forget that Muse played The Mayan in Downtown L.A. back in May 2004. Since then, the band has graduated to a large-scale, high-budget stage production that emphasizes how a live rock concert should be done. Muse returned to Downtown L.A. on Saturday, September 25th, with the first of two straight sold-out appearances headlining at Staples Center. The group has been touring in support of Resistance, their fifth studio album that was released in September 2009.
Muse frontman Matthew Bellamy has been a target of the tabloids since taking his relationship with actress Kate Hudson public. Hudson was spotted at several Muse shows around the globe, spurring speculation that the two were dating this past summer. Given this information, it was no surprise to see the actress in attendance behind the soundboard on the floor of the Staples Center. It’s a good thing she showed up to support because Bellamy & Co. put on a stellar performance.
Major rock shows require all the bells and whistles and Muse rang and blew each one of them. There were three tall skyscraper towers that hovered over the stage. After an introduction, the structures split apart to reveal vocalist-guitarist Bellamy, bassist Christopher Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard. Each member was positioned on their own platform roughly 15 feet in the air surrounded on all sides by multimedia and video screens.
Major rock shows also require rock star outfits. Bellamy was outfitted in a flashy, reflective silver disco ball-like suit that could either ring Anita Ward’s bell or at the very least nuke a Hot Pocket. Howard’s kit sat perched in the middle of the stage on a round platform that also rotated. The band dropped in with a riff version of “Uprising,” followed by the self-titled track off their latest album. The three platforms dropped into the floor and “New Born” was accompanied by a visual laser light spectacle that could easily provide LASIK vision correction.
Muse played their hit single “Supermassive Blackhole” before embracing the back and side sections of the Staples Center. The band shifted their set equally throughout the night including during “MK Ultra” and a few other tracks which provided an engaging 360-degree perspective. This was a smart move that sold more tickets and gave equal opportunity views and experiences to those seated behind the stage. While these fans may not have been able to see the opening support act, they were certainly rewarded with amazing views and interaction from the back of the house during the headliner’s set.
The opera-influenced space rockers continued to rip through a setlist that included “Hysteria,” ”United States of Eurasia” and a cover of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” which was voted “greatest cover song of all-time” in a poll conducted by NME. Wolstenholme joined Howard on the drummer’s rotating platform for a mellow drum and bass showcase known as “Helsinki Jam.” Muse then used their 2006 smash hit “Starlight” off Black Holes and Revelations to up the ante and bring the floor’s energy to an unseen level not seen since the Lakers won the NBA Championships back in June. Muse had the entire venue clapping and singing along to lyrics. The general admission ticketholders that stood on the floor deserve credit for fueling much of the band’s fire throughout their hour and forty-five minute set. This was not your typical unresponsive or unimpressed Los Angeles crowd.
Giant eyeball balloons dropped down from above during “Plug in Baby” before Bellamy took to the side of stage and treated the crowd to a short instrumental snippet of “House of the Rising Sun.” The crowd had no problem providing the lyrics to a song The Animals made popular in 1964. The band closed their set with “Unnatural Selection” before returning with an encore that ended with “Exogenesis Pt. 1,””Stockholm Syndrome,” and “Knights of Cydonia.”
Bellamy hurled a variety of different guitars in the air several times throughout the night, allowing them to drop and hit the stage in typical rock star fashion. Bellamy is certainly entitled to do so as he is an outstanding singer that can hit any vocal range, all while engaging with his audience. His vocal ability has always been impressive, just as the band’s ability to grow and evolve into one of today’s biggest touring acts. It certainly helps when you’re influenced by Queen, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, and Black Sabbath.
It is no mystery why Muse sells out arenas and stadiums. They have an incredibly loyal fan base which can be seen in the community forum on the band’s website (www.muse.mu). Like true Deadheads, these are diehard fans that interact with each other every night using live real-time Twitter postings from fans who Tweet updates and setlists from each venue. This band is simply one the best rock groups in modern music and they certainly proved themselves with another great Los Angeles performance. If their history and track record is any indication, a future date at Dodger Stadium looks inevitable.
Massachusetts’ Passion Pit opened the show with a 9-song set that included two tracks off their 6-song EP Chunk of Change. The synth-pop quintet has been touring since last year in support of Manners, their debut full-length album.
Muse and Passion Pit return tonight for another sold-out gig Sunday, September 26th at Staples Center. The band will continue touring the U.S. through the end of October with scheduled appearances at Austin City Limits and Voodoo Experience in New Orleans. A two-week Australian arena tour will follow in December before work begins on a new album sometime next year.