Muse 1/27/16

(a) setlist

    1. Psycho
    2. Dead Inside
    3. Interlude
    4. Hysteria
    5. Map of the Problematique
    6. The 2nd Law: Isolated System
    7. The Handler
    8. Resistance
    9. Supermassive Black Hole
    10. Prelude
    11. Starlight
    12. Apocalypse Please
    13. Munich Jam
    14. Madness
    15. Undisclosed Desires
    16. (JFK Speech)
    17. Reapers
    18. Time Is Running Out
    19. Uprising
    20. The Globalist
    21. Drones

Encore:

  1. Mercy
  2. Knights of Cydonia

(b) highlights

  • that setlist – “Map of the Problematique” (!!) and “Apocalypse Please” (!!) in particular
  • the 360-degree stage set-up and other-worldly production, my god
  • being front row for the first time ever seeing Muse – unforgettable as all hell
  • the literal DRONES flying around inside the venue – ain’t no time for subtlety here
  • quote of the night from my friend, who was seeing Muse for the first time: “Matt Bellamy could win American Idol!”
  • Chris Wolstenholme’s general existence
  • getting Dom’s drumstick (!!!)

(c) lowlights

  • they didn’t play my all-time favorite Muse song “Stockholm Syndrome” or my favorite song from the new album “Revolt” 😦
  • drone warfare can be, uh, a touchy subject

(d) overall thoughts

Wow, do I love Muse. For some reason, the band has attracted a particular brand of haters over the last decade or so, which never cease to amaze me because I literally cannot fathom how anyone could hate a band that has seriously redefined the idea of spectacle and performance in rock ‘n’ roll. I’ve seen Muse a lot – a couple of times for every album since 2006’s Blackholes and Revelations – and every time has been a capital E “Experience.” This one at the Barclays Center proved they’re not holding back or slowing down on monumental stage design or stadium-size production levels, but aiming even higher to perform and impress. With a huge, rotating 360-degree stage, two side stage wings with an accompanying runway, a dozen or so real-life flying and glowing drones, and one inflatable fighter jet, Muse dismiss symbolic subtlety and quiet political commentary for the best damn circus in town you’ve ever seen.

Matt Bellamy and Chris Wolstenholme were all over the stage(s), playing glowing guitars with equal parts power and grace, and damn, it was so much fun to watch. Dom Howard, though stationary, never failed to amaze from his spinning drumming stool. Though somewhat of a minority, I enjoyed their latest album Drones and found myself wrapped up in the world that Muse created in their music – presumably the one we’re living in now, only with more paranoia, violence, and impending doom. But also – hope! It’s incredible to think that just hours before the show I lamented to one of my friends how much I would love to hear an older classic like “Map of the Problematique” only for them to actually play it! I always think, when it comes down to it all, Muse is comprised of just three dudes – a guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer – but their sound can fill arenas on par with full orchestras. Each note, guitar wail, and lyric feels so fully-embodied and emotional in such a real way. So many moments during this show reminded me of that.

With very little to complain about, I have to admit that perhaps the only drawback to the literal inclusion of drones and military warfare via screens and the occasional soldier walking around the stage (seriously), was not the inherent heavy-handedness of the political message, but the insensitivity of the act; a couple of English dudes projecting “My father was killed by drones” and “my sister was hit by a drone” can feel slightly disingenuous even though that wasn’t the band’s intent. Muse have become a bit of a “message band” over the years, and I actually quite like that, but I never want my friends to feel uncomfortable at a show and a few of them were. Regardless – in my opinion – the performance itself was enough of a statement for the validity of modern day rock ‘n’ roll than any verbose political statement might’ve been.

 

Bottom line: Muse are some of the best damn musicians around – true masters of emotional performance art and experiential music – and I will always stop everything to see them perform, especially when they’ve got something to say.

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