Going Live: Muse

© Jeff Parsons

Who: Muse
Where:
Air Canada Centre, Toronto
When:
March 8 2010

Singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy’s recent fixation on teddy bears (as seen dominating the video for “Uprising”) came full head on this Toronto night as Muse played an interlude of “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” to a sold out Air Canada Centre. That’s what the English three piece do best – spinning the juvenile, absurd and over-the-top into epic rock compositions.

An electronic melody enticed the crowd as three towers screened bodies climbing stairs and subsequently falling down like lemmings off a cliff. An explosion of bass and the curtains dropped from the towers revealing Muse standing on top of them playing “Uprising”, the first track off The Resistance. They remained standing high on their towers for the eponymous song from the album before the pillars descended into the stage for “New Born” which featured a slower tempo and fuzzier distortion in its guitar parts. That, along with “Feeling Good” was as far back as they went into their catalogue since this was part of a tour promoting their latest album.

Microphones dotted the circumference of the stage and Dominic Howard’s revolving drum set allowed everybody in the arena to get a full frontal view of his talent. The towers ascended for select songs, such as the Queen-sized piano epic “United States of Eurasia”, displaying pictures of world leaders intermitted with clips of mutually assured destruction. It was an effective way to bring the band’s paranoia and conspiracy theories to life in a live setting.

Instrumental breaks prevented anybody from grabbing another beer or going to the bathroom. These ranged from unnamed rock jams to a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. The best of these was the inclusion of the “Interlude” featured on Absolution, before they launched into “Hysteria”. A transition that hasn’t often been included in previous live sets.

It was the songs from 2006’s Black Holes And Revelations that garnered the most attention. Everybody participated in the handclaps of “Starlight”. During this, giant eyeball balloons drifted from the rafters acting as creepy beach balls bouncing through the crowd. And say what you will about the inclusion of “Supermassive Black Hole” on the Twilight soundtrack, but it is still one of their most funky and memorable songs. It comes off even better live with an extended solo that teases an individual’s senses.

After closing the set with the near-metal “Unnatural Selection”, an eerie mood was set with the first part of Exogenesis: Symphony which was later counterbalanced by the headbanging “Stockholm Syndrome”. The night ended with the towers tele-prompting “No one’s going to take me alive” and bystanders fist-pumping to the artistic number “Knights Of Cydonia”.

It’s been interesting to see the evolution of this band as in 2004, Muse tried to break America by playing free club shows across the country. While still rocking out, the persona of the band remained a little reserved. Their status has escalated from small venues to amphitheaters to festivals that make them appear as what they seem like on the other side of the ocean: arena rock gods.

The reservations apparent six years ago do not apply anymore as Bellamy used all parts of the stage and experimented with crazy distortion and reverb. He even managed to throw in a power slide or two. Howard has mastered the art of playing drums while spinning in a circle and Chris Wolstenholme could make some worry that his head will fall off with the way it rolls with his bass lines.

With their massive live shows and growing fan base including tweens, rockers and casual listeners, Muse should face no resistance in taking over the world.

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