Sometimes it seems hard to believe that certain artists have garnered so much attention in mainstream America (see Ke$ha). Then there are bands like Muse, who seems astonishingly under-appreciated in the States.
When the British rock band played the Pepsi Center on Saturday, a dedicated U.S. fan base was present but there weren’t nearly as many people filling the venue as there should have been. Muse is gargantuan in their native England (and in almost every other country in the world) but for whatever reason they seem to have had a hard time breaking into the U.S. mainstream. Obviously the Pepsi Center is no slouch size-wise, but the venue wasn’t filled to the brim like it should have been.
There was also the feeling that more than a handful of people were there for opener Passion Pit, a band that has had no problem becoming mainstream fairly fast. To be fair, this reporter was only there for their last three songs, but that was all that really necessary to grasp their performance style. Singer Michael Angelakos was energetic but couldn’t hit those crazy high notes live quite as well as he can on record. And though overall Passion Pit was a little underwhelming, they put on a decent performance nonetheless. Fan favorites “Sleepyhead” and “Little Secrets” were played and fans all appeared to be having a good time dancing to the band’s catchy indie pop.
Muse consists of three incredibly talented men who create songs that sound so much bigger than just a few people. Drummer Dominic Howard and bassist Christopher Wolstenholme are both exceptionally talented on their instruments, but singer/guitar genius/piano prodigy Matthew Bellamy was the star of the show.
Bellamy showed up on stage in a ridiculous shiny suit and glittery (yes, glittery) shoes, and while that may sound garish, it worked for him. Keep in mind, this guy writes songs about alien takeover and government conspiracies, so a glittery suit isn’t the most over-the-top thing he’s ever done. And why shouldn’t he wear a shiny suit? Bellamy is the center of attention after all. Most people came to see Bellamy’s masterful guitar playing (he’s widely considered one of the greatest living guitarists), incredible piano playing ability and soaring vocals. Bellamy’s performance and compositions aren’t subdued, so why should his clothes be?
So much can be said about Muse as a live band (beyond Bellamy’s ensemble choices) that it’s overwhelming to even try to surmise it all in a matter of a few sentences. From the grand set pieces—in this case vertical moving columns that each band member stood on—to the expert showmanship as Bellamy pulled out classic rock moves like playing the guitar behind his head and sliding around the stage.
Muse performing live is the concert equivalent of eating a piece of chocolate cake; it’s so delicious and indulgent that you can’t help but want more. Many have critiqued the band for their lean toward overindulgence musically.
On last year’s “The Resistance,” Bellamy created a three-track masterpiece: a symphony. Some may say that the result, “Exogenesis Symphony,” was overreaching, but others (like myself) thought that it was a revelation. Why aren’t more bands trying harder to push the envelope and challenge themselves musically?
Muse started out with angsty, angry rock in 1999 with their debut “Showbiz” and has now evolved into stadium rockers and epic composers. When Muse opened with “Exogenesis Symphony Part 1 [Overture]” it was hard not to be blown away by its power, soul-crushing beauty and yes, overarching reach.
Once Muse started their show it was hard to find a moment to catch a breath. From “Exogenesis,” they flew through the pulsing Depeche Mode electronics of “Map of the Problematique” and then took the audience by storm with the space-western “Knights of Cydonia.” Bellamy is a natural showman, leading the audience in fist pumps as he told stories of injustice and lamented over war in songs like “United States Of Eurasia [Collateral Damage]” and “Unnatural Selection.” The only dull moment in the concert was the surprisingly lackluster live version of the R&B tinged “Undisclosed Desires,” but perhaps not every moment can be as filled with bombast and exhilaration.
The band finished the show by playing “Take a Bow,” a deeply political track off of 2006’s “Black Holes & Revelations,” a song that really encapsulates all the Muse stand for; it’s a dark, sweeping explosion that may be melodramatic, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to listen to.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Jenny Gumbert at Jenny.firstname.lastname@example.org.