Muse dazzles audience with elaborate multimedia show

muse concert
Photo by Sharlene Celeskey
Guitarist Matthew Bellamy and bassist Christopher Wolstenholme perform on their "2nd Law World Tour" at U.S. Airways Center, Phoenix on March 16.

A Mayan style pyramid made up of small rectangular screens. Laser lights shooting beams of cold blue lights through the darkened arena. Strobe lights pulsating to the rhythm of music as they change colors. Complex song structures with high-speed guitar one moment that quickly shift to symphonic keyboards. Once all your senses adjust to what you hear and see on stage, suddenly you are thrown into something entirely new and in contrast to what you just experienced. British band, Muse, brought its multi-media show of contrasts and complexity to U.S. Airways Arena in Phoenix on March 16. The band used “smoke and mirrors,” to create an illusion of a huge sound and a stage show of ever-changing complexity. Like magicians, they constantly astound their audience, but Muse uses cutting edge technology to create their intense and highly stimulating show.
“The 2nd Law: Isolated System” from their new and sixth album The 2nd Law opens the show. As the cobalt lights faded a golden glowing pyramid appears on the stage. Then you hear the automated computer voice of a woman on a backing track repeating over and over, “In an isolated system, entropy can only increase.” Suddenly, you hear but do not see the band launching into the intro of “Supremacy,” also from the new album, while the pyramid ascends slowly. As it continues rising, you finally spy the band underneath. Then the crowd screams and claps unable to contain its excitement.  
The opening reminds you of a Pink Floyd’s concert where the band became lost in anonymity on stage. Matthew Bellamy of Muse told CBS that this new tour was to be their version of Pink Floyd’s 1980 extravagant show, “The Wall.” Bellamy also compares their pyramid with Pink Floyd’s gigantic wall. 
Bellamy, the singer, guitarist, keyboardist and principle song writer, leads the trio as he begins singing. He sings in a wide vocal range and admits to widening his range after seeing alternative artist Jeff Buckley performing in 1994. Bellamy told Will Hodgkinson in The Guardian, 16 August 2001, “He (Buckley) was one of the first male singers who made me comfortable about singing in a female range."
Christopher Wolstenholme plays bass, Misa Kitara, keyboards, and does occasional vocals. The drummer Dominic Howard rounds out the British trio who has been together since they were 15. They met and started a band as students at Teignmouth Community College.  (A fourth member and multi-instrumentalist, Morgan Nicholls, regularly appears with them as part of their touring band only.)
As soon as they start their classic “Supermassive Black Hole,” the pyramid flips upside down and a hypnotic pattern of white dotted lights flash across the LED screens. The excitement continues as Muse plays another favorite song, “The Resistance,” and as the audience recognizes it, they give a resounding round of applause. The song starts off slowly with Bellamy leading the audience in clapping and singing but the song picks up speed and energy when he starts playing guitar. This is one of their more philosophical songs about not giving in to fear.
Later, they surprise the audience by starting off one of their most beloved songs with only a harmonica lead. As soon a Bellamy begins to sing “Knights of Caledonia,” in his tenor voice the audience responds by dancing. This fan favorite stresses standing up for your rights. (“I’m a bit of a libertarian at heart, but I’d say I’m more of a left-leaning Libertarian,” Bellamy said on on January 30.)
As the band starts another new song, “Follow Me,” the stage bursts into a phantasmagoria of colors and lights as the laser light show begins. The laser beams extend out into the pitch-dark arena and rotate and blend with the prismatic strobe lights on stage. After the high stimulation of the song ends,the band decelerates as Bellamy starts off “United States of Eurasia,” with his piano solo. When the other band members join in, the song turns more dramatic with trichromatic lights flashing, a taped backing chorus adding vocals, and bright galaxy images floating across the screens.
Then bassist Wolstenholme starts the next song and takes the spotlight to render his song from the new album, “Liquid State Play." He sings this hard rocking song about his battle with alcohol with a lower voice than Bellamy while lights flash at rapid speeds. The next song, also his composition, tells of his family standing by him during his recovery. Bellamy takes over the vocals as the lyrics of the song are projected on the screens of the pyramid as the audience sings along. The laser lights illuminate the stage for a very dramatic effect. (This song was used to advertise NCAA March Madness on TV.)
The audience also sings along again with the pop and dance song “Undisclosed Desires.” This simple and upbeat song was influenced by David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes.” Towards the end of it, Bellamy jumps off the stage into the pit between the stage and audience and shakes hands with some of the fans. Then “Uprising,” another earlier and wildly popular song gets the crowd singing as they wave their arms in the air.  Another song about the evils of Big Brother’s government, it is one of their simpler structured songs with t emphasis on the guitar.
Muse returns for a two song encore beginning with an earlier hit, “Starlight.” It begins with only Bellamy’s vocal solo and then builds to intensity when the instrumental accompaniment begins.  Stars floating around on the screens coupled with an intricate light show add to the visual theatrics of the song.  Muse’s final song, “Survival,” was used last year as the official theme song for the London Olympics and was also their first single off the new album. Bellamy begins on piano and then switches to guitar effortlessly during the song. The stage show looks like a rotating fractured disco ball and for the finale, half a dozen streams of smoke shoot up repeatedly out from below the stage.
Muse played most of the songs from their new album, “The 2nd Law,” and the audience was familiar with them, especially the singles. It is still the older classic Muse songs that receive the most applause and generate the most excitement. Grammy wining Muse is a hard band to categorize since they play a multitude of song styles but are commonly referred to as alternative. They encompass many more styles than one and during their concert, you hear: electronic, heavy metal, symphonic rock, prog rock, hard rock, experimental rock and art rock. Their fluctuating musical styles and multi-instrumentalism keep you engaged during the hour and 45 minute show. This coupled with a show stopping light and visual stage show make them one of the most entertaining bands today.
“Dead Sara,” a hard rock post punk band, opened for them. They were not very interesting although I like hard rock and punk. I was not a fan of Emily Armstrong’s vocals, but much of the audience disagreed and applauded their performance. Their opening just made Muse sound and look even better.

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