Big Band, Big Tour, Big State: Muse Kicks Off New Tour in Texas

Muse thinks big.
Muse thinks big. Photo by Jeff Forney, courtesy of Warner Bros Records
Muse is one of the biggest rock bands in the world. The band’s stage show is often one of the biggest concert events an arena can hope to host. It takes the right kind of place (think big) to set these grand-scaled endeavors in motion and the English rock band seems to have settled on the exact locale best suited to kick off its ambitious tours.

It’s Texas, y’all. The Lone Star State is the launching pad for the band’s approaching Simulation Theory World Tour. What will ultimately be a nine-month trek across the globe begins February 22 in Houston at Toyota Center. In  2015, the Bayou City inhabited a similar spot on Muse’s 2015 Drones World Tour.

The band’s drummer, Dominic Howard, said it’s nothing “other than the fact we love Texas, you know, that’s why we’re starting it there. We actually started our last tour in Texas as well which is kind of a nice coincidence. We thought it’d be nice to do kind of the same thing. We’re excited about it.”

It’s more than just an affinity for the state that makes this the right place for Howard and band mates Matt Bellamy and Chris Wolstenholme to jump start another boundaries-pushing tour. The band has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide and has earned numerous music awards, including a pair of Grammys, over a 25-year history. But Muse might be best known as architects of massive and progressive stage shows and Texas’s wide open spaces lend themselves well to preparing for such spectacles.

“We’re getting excited about coming back to Texas. You know, we’re actually rehearsing in Texas, just outside of Houston, the main production rehearsals, so we’re going to be coming to Texas quite a bit over the next couple of weeks to actually start building our stage and figuring out what we’re gonna do. It’s going to be nice to spend some time there,” Howard said.

The band will be creating a stage show that reflects the music on Simulation Theory, which released last November. The album’s themes will be prevalent in whatever audiences ultimately gaze upon. Connecting the live show to the recorded music has been a winning formula for the band.

“The last tour was just really, really tech heavy and this tour is also going to have a lot of tech and be a big rock show, but we just wanted to approach the way the show looks from a different angle, rather than just tons of video content that’s pre-made on the screen. Obviously, the last tour had drones and stuff flying around. I’m not even sure we did them in Texas because it was so early I don’t think they worked,” Howard laughed.

“This time it’s a completely different show but it’s going to be completely wild because it’s way more theatrical than anything we’ve ever done. It’s not just us on stage; we’re bringing in a whole bunch of performers, musical performers and singers and stuff like that, who are going to be performing and doing things in artistic ways which are going to be filmed really nicely and then that is going to create the live visual on the screen,” he continued. “It will kind of be this real-time, free-flowing, interactive experience rather than it just being a band playing with a bunch of videos, which is great, but everyone does it these days."

“This time it’s a completely different show but it’s going to be completely wild because it’s way more theatrical than anything we’ve ever done." — Dominic Howard, Muse drummer

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“It’s certainly going to have the look and feel of what the album artwork looks like and some of the videos, it’s going to have that colorful, neon feel to it,” he promised.

Because Muse is often associated with this sort of extravagance, we asked Howard if the group misses playing for smaller audiences.

“Fortunately, we still get to play smaller shows now and again because we like to still put in smaller shows, either like fan request shows where they vote on the set list or we often have done charity shows and things like that in smaller, more intimate places. We haven’t completely lost touch with what those venues feel like,” Howard said.

click to enlarge Dominic Howard (far right) and bandmates Chris Wolstenholme and Matt Bellamy - PHOTO BY PATRICK MCPHERON, COURTESY OF WARNER BROS RECORDS
Dominic Howard (far right) and bandmates Chris Wolstenholme and Matt Bellamy
Photo by Patrick McPheron, courtesy of Warner Bros Records
“I really love that. The energy’s completely different, it’s way more intimate, you know, kind of the obvious stuff to say, but it’s true. What I miss about those is not having the headache of putting on the big shows in the arenas. You could just go out and play. The kind of show that we’re about to do and that we have done in the past, you know, it takes a lot of planning and organization and choreography of what happens, when and where we need to be, so it’s just a bit more to think about.”

On the subject of big shows, we asked Howard about one of the biggest concerts of any year, the Super Bowl halftime show. He said he planned to watch the game and Maroon 5’s turn at the event. We noted that Muse fans have recently rallied for the band when the big game’s halftime entertainment is being considered. Because of the scope of their live show, they seem particularly suited to the task; but, are they interested?

“If we got asked to do it I’m sure we would do it,” Howard said. “It’s so crazy-over-the-top for such a small 20-, 30-minute show. I like that kind of thing, I think it’d be a great challenge to really do whatever you want. I get the impression doing that, at the Super Bowl, you could probably literally do whatever you could dream up.”

Muse has never had trouble exploring the furthest reaches of its imagination. Howard said that innovative spirit has ensured everything stays fresh with the band even after a quarter-century of performing.

“Every tour we do things get more and more exciting. Even though we have been going for a while now and done loads of different tours on different scales, it’s not even remotely getting boring or anything. There’s always a new challenge. I think this tour is like a whole step up again from anything we’ve done. It always feels like that.”

Muse brings the Simulation Theory World Tour to Houston Friday, February 22. Toyota Center, 1510 Polk, hosts the tour stop. With Walk the Moon. Tickets $39.50 to $94.99.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.