All the earmarks were there: the pyrotechnics, the soaring vocals, the guitar solos, the Coheed and Cambria T-shirts, the guy-liner. If you didn't know any better, you might think you were at some kind of goth, prog metal show. Look at the crowd full of music nerds and forty somethings, the same group you might have seen at a Rush show a decade ago. Also present, the jaw-dropping musicianship and magical rock showmanship of English band Muse making it feel like a throwback to when rock shows still ruled the world.
Streamers and confetti rained down on fans inside Toyota Center while Muse spent nearly two hours tearing through an energetic set of balls-out rockers and surprisingly artsy asides.
Opening up was Evanescence, fronted by female vocalist Amy Lee, who, at 41, still brings the heat with her voice — broadway pipes belting out angsty, heartworn songs about love and loss including hits like "My Immortal" and "Bring Me to Life," both from their massive first album Fallen.
Muse was, honestly, surprising. Everyone knows their well-crafted brand of arena rock is well suited for...well, arenas. But, the degree to which they took license to go well outside the normal fist pounding hard rock was fascinating. At one point I thought to myself, "This is a loyal crowd if the singer can walk around on stage in a Tron outfit playing a tiny digital keyboard strapped to his arm and still keep their rapt attention."
This has always been a group of intensely skilled musicians playing a sort of digitized, guitar-driven hard rock with Radiohead-esque vocal flourishes and Rage Against the Machine messaging, all of which was on full display. The latter was delivered via a series of videos that played during songs, interludes and breaks. Near as I could tell, this giant devil killed a dude dressed like Daft Punk and it pissed off people so much, they all started dressing like Daft Punk and killed off their demon overlords, or tried to? It was a little confusing if I'm being honest.
Ultimately, with all the theatrical touches, this was still a rock show and it remains where Muse absolutely shines. There were songs from their new record Will of the People like the synth-heavy "Compliance" and just plain heavy "Won't Back Down." But they mixed in plenty of classics like "Hysteria," "Time is Running Out," "Madness" and, of course, "Uprising," "Starlight" and the Twilight soundtrack favorite "Supermassive Black Hole."
Guitarist, singer and charismatic frontman Matt Bellamy spent most of the night prowling the stage (including a long gang plank that stretched well out into the crowd on the floor), switching instruments and thoroughly engaging a raucous audience with his full-throated vocals. But, it was bassist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard who did most of the musical heavy lifting (along with sideman Dan Lancaster). It's one of the best rhythm sections in music and it was obvious from beat one.
It's rare in today's music world to see what essentially amounts to a three-piece band absolutely blowing the doors off of an arena with exceptionally loud rock and roll delivered with insane precision. The last time I can remember seeing something like it was the Foo Fighters. With that band on hiatus after the tragic death of drummer Taylor Hawkins, Muse might be, pound-for-pound, the best rock band in the world.
They finished the set with "Knights of Cydonia" from the 2006 album Black Holes and Revelations. The six-minute-plus song about, what else, fighting to survive what I assume is some dystopian hellscape, found fans still singing and pumping their fists in the air in defiance of the giant blow-up demon on stage. Like the rest of the night, it was dramatic, engaging, a little goofy, and it warmed my little prog rock heart.
Will of the People
Won't Stand Down
Time is Running Out
We Are Fucking Fucked
Dark Side Alt Reality
Supermassive Black Hole
Plug In Baby
Behold the Glove
Smi Theory Theme
Kill or Be Killed
Knights of Cydonia