I’m in a weird place with Muse. They were the first band I really fell in love with. I’ve seen them upwards of 9 times, been lucky enough to meet/interview them, and essentially have them to thank for really getting me into music. So it makes this next sentence that much harder to say: I can’t stand what they’ve become. That’s not to say this is the first time I’ve disliked a release, as some of their stuff is just downright terrible (‘Prague,’ anyone?) but lately the bad has outweighed the good VASTLY. 2009’s The Resistance had its moments, MK ULTRA and Exogenesis are some of their finest work to date, but was mostly a weird foray into bombast and a competition to see how over-the-top they can get. But it got a pass. Maybe it was the production diaries of them laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of the slap bass in ‘Undisclosed Desires,’ or how nobody in their right mind could take ‘I Belong to You’ seriously, but there was a feeling that they were just goofing around. They’re not seriously going to take that direction in their next album, right?
Wrong. It turns out ‘Undisclosed Desires’ and ‘I Belong to You’ were not one-off goof tracks, but the future of the band. The riffs in ‘Unnatural Selection?’ The thundering anthem that was ‘MK ULTRA?’ Gone. Those were the one offs. This was no more apparent than when Muse starting debuting the first few songs of The 2nd Law. First was the Olympic piano anthem, ‘Survival.’ I’ll be completely honest here; I thought it was a joke at first. As did many fans. There were tweets saying “oh, Muse is just trolling us.” Sadly, there was no trolling to be had. The poppy, choir-backed, Queen-esque bombast was for real. And you know what? Many still had hope. “It’s just one song,” or “they wrote it for the Olympics, of COURSE it’ll be cheesy!” was a popular sentiment. Then came ‘Unsustainable.’ Ah yes, the dubstep track. Cue the ominous music. To be fair it isn’t really a dubstep track, as anyone with two ears can hear the distinct difference between the drop in ‘Unsustainable’ and any of the drops in a Skrillex song. But for all intents and purposes, it was Muse doing dubstep. And it was not pretty. It failed as a dubstep song, with a soft, simple, and repetitive drop, but also failed as an electronic rock song. STILL, there was hope. Hey, it’s just TWO songs, right? “Wait till you hear the whole album to judge.” Fair enough. Then came ‘Madness.’ Yikes. Where to begin? From the very beginning, it was bad news. Sounding more like an electronic cover of the Muppet’s ‘Mahna Mahna’ than an actual Muse song, many began to lose all hope. Even a fantastic music video couldn’t save it. But for all its detractors within the Muse fan base (I refuse to use the word “musers”), it had some fans. One of them being Coldplay’s Chris Martin, who called it “the best song Muse have made.” Are we listening to the same song, Chris? But soon enough, the time came for the full album. The last ditch hope of “you can’t judge an entire album just on two songs” was no more. Judgment hour has arrived. And if you think I’m being overdramatic, just remember this is Muse we’re talking about, that’s kind of their whole thing.
The result is in, and it’s a bloodbath. From its wild and abrupt shifts in style to the mind numbing mediocrity of some songs, The 2nd Law is simply a poor album. It’s the result of a band trying to be five different things at once, but never really focusing their sound to just being Muse. I got into this band because they sounded like Rage Against the Machine scoring an episode of Battlestar Galactica, not to hear them play a funk song. And yes, I get it, bands change and all that. Except when they don’t. Look at some of the stalwarts out there in the rock genre; Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Bruce Springsteen, all bands who have been around longer than Muse and haven’t changed their sound so radically. There’s a difference between growing, which Muse clearly have done just from Showbiz to Absolution, and completely becoming a different band all together. Go ahead and take a guess which category Muse fall into. And you know what? That’s fine. They are well within their rights as a band to do whatever they want. But don’t expect the people who first got into you to stick around. When you put out a song like ‘Big Freeze,’ which is the poorest example of a U2 imitation I have ever heard, you simply can’t expect fans of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ to stick around.
It’s not to say the album is a complete failure, however. There are some fine moments in there. Moments, which still bite at that fan inside you, making you think “hey, maybe Muse have still got it after all.” And that’s what makes The 2nd Law so frustrating. From the very beginning, the riff in ‘Supremacy’ is fantastic, it’s old school Muse at its finest. But suddenly there are screeching violins in the background. What rulebook is Muse abiding by that dictates the need for strings in every single song? We’re plenty happy with the riff, you’re a rock band, a riff doesn’t need anything but a sweet bass line and drum fills behind it. The track then fades into a lull of a verse, before stopping on a dime, punching you in the face with falsetto and ripping right back into the riff. It’s enough to make you bipolar. The greatness is still there, especially in the outro, which makes you want to grab the nearest stranger, head butt them directly in the face and open up a pit. Immediately you can imagine how well that part of the song will translate live. As does ‘Liquid State,’ the second of a duo of songs in which bassist Chris Wolstenholme takes on lead vocal duties. It starts into a thick, heavily distorted bass line from the first second and continues with excellent drum work from Dominic Howard, very reminiscent of a their impromptu drum and bass jams in the live shows. Though it’s a sweet track, it’s not hard to imagine how much better it would be if Matt Bellamy’s guitar work was a bit more prominent. But again, this is Chris’ song, so perhaps that was the mindset. Regardless, ‘Supremacy’ and ‘Liquid State’ are the two true “rock” tracks on the album and if they had only kept that as their focus, maybe The 2nd Law would have been a lot better.
Then there’s the rest. It ranges from utterly droll songs like ‘Save Me,’ to the upbeat, disco-anthems like ‘Follow Me.’ The reason this album fails is because it has no focus. Muse is trying to do about four different sounds at once, and what they got is a mess of tracks that don’t belong together. Even with its downfalls and overstated political themes, The Resistance had a flow and scope to it. The 2nd Law simply doesn’t. The decision for them to self-produce the record has to come into play here. It’s hard to imagine songs like ‘Explorers’ making it off the cutting room floor and onto the album with a producer in studio. That’s what producers do. They help a band hone their sound and coach them along the process of making the album. Of course one could argue that Muse knows their sound better than any producer, but one could also simply start playing ‘Panic Station’ in response. Even in talking about the album, the band cited inspiration from artists like Meatloaf to Skrillex. That’s a warning sign that the band is all over the place. To be fair, some of these tracks have been played live and do sound a bit better, ‘Follow Me’ for example turns into a ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ like guitar anthem. It would also be unfair to dismiss ‘Animals,’ a progressive rock track that harkens back the moody, dark Origin of Symmetry days. It builds throughout and culminates in a whirlwind of an outro, which sees the band warp and melt their respective instruments into a wall of wonderful ambient rock. That’s the type of song a producer hears and says, “yes, explore THAT sound.” But when self-producing, you really don’t have the luxury of an extra set of ears. The band is just left to explore the weird reaches of their over-the-top, bombastic musical repertoire. Which as The 2nd Law shows us, has no end.
That’s how it comes across as a whole, but being that it feels more like a collection of singles than an actual album, a song-by-song breakdown is almost necessary.
1. ‘Supremacy’ – A killer riff here. The start of this song is painfully deceiving, as it inspires false hope that the rest of the album will be as rock-centric. I could do without the Monday Night Football-esque violin screeches; that Morello-inspired riff is more than enough to keep me entertained. It ends in a head banging outro that not only will reach out to all the metal heads in the audience, but almost begs for the band to extend in their trademark fashion. Good song.
2. ‘Madness’ – We should have seen this coming. It’s the older brother of ‘Undisclosed Desires,’ except farther into electronic territory. Being that ‘Undisclosed Desires’ was extremely flat live, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for the much mellower ‘Madness.’ The song finally picks up towards the end, but it’s a case of way too little, way too late. Impressive video though, even if I did half expect to see the Snowths pop up halfway through.
3. ‘Panic Station’ – The first time I heard this song kick in, I laughed. A full on, belly laugh. Not only because it was the last thing I’d expect a Muse song to be, but because it’s utterly ridiculous. It sounds like a Stevie Wonder produced Red Hot Chili Peppers cover of ‘Thriller.’ Not a bad song per say, but it’s certainly not a Muse song. It will no doubt have its fans, and on some level I can understand that, but this isn’t the band I signed up for. I can’t stand this track, but what I hate the most is that I can’t get it out of my head. Anybody have an ice pick? We gotta get off this rock, Chuck.
4-5. ‘Prelude + Survival’ – Split up on the album, ‘Prelude’ serves as the intro track for ‘Survival.’ It’s a deceivingly wonderful piano number, which is pretty jarring when it jumps into the poppy ‘Survival.’ This was the first song they released off the album, and served as the first warning sign of trouble. The painfully simple lyrics highlight what comes off as Muse further trying to be like Queen. An incredibly forgettable track that even sounded ridiculous as a backdrop to the Olympics. Now that’s saying something.
6. ‘Follow Me’ – This song first dribbled out in bootlegged video from a recent show, sounding very much like a guitar heavy version of ‘Where the Streets Have No Name.’ But you’ll be shocked to hear it very different on the album. It plays more like a house DJ’s remix of a Whitney Houston song than anything else. It’s not hard to see the pounding techno beat during the chorus blasting in some booze filled club. That’s right; it’s quite possible that the Jersey Shore crew will be fist bumping to a Muse song. I’m so sorry.
7. ‘ Animals’ – Muse have been compared to Radiohead before, albeit unfairly in the past, but this is the first time that comparison is audible. The slick drumming is very much like ‘Paranoid Android,’ and that’s not to say it’s a bad song, in fact ‘Animals’ is one of the bright spots on the album. It’s very much like ‘Screenager,’ with moody, dark lyrics like “do us all a favor; come on and kill yourself.” It brings back that Showbiz-era angst, which hasn’t been seen in years.
8. ‘Explorers’ – This song is puzzling. Clocking in at nearly six minutes, it’s the longest song on the album and I’m not sure why. It’s a bland, rather empty one and begs the question as to why it even made it off the cutting room floor. Piano driven anthems are what Muse is all about, but this is a vapid one.
9. ‘Big Freeze’ – From the start, this sounds just like a U2 song. Matt Bellamy’s vocals go into ridiculous territories and the instrumental elements just aren’t Muse. This personifies the album as a whole; it’s confusing, messy, and simply poor.
10. ‘Save Me’ – The first of two tracks that see Wolstenholme as lead vocals, this slow, melodic tune may be very personal, but it doesn’t inspire much excitement. It kind of just plods along for five minutes, and though there’s a build at the end, it never culminates in anything worthwhile. It’s a nice change of pace to hear Chris take lead vocals, but the song itself is too weak.
11. ‘Liquid State’ – This is the antithesis of ‘Save Me.’ The second of Chris’ lead vocal tracks, it’s a wave of distorted bass fuzz from the very start. Sadly it’s one of the shortest songs on the album. Coming across more like a fleshed out Dom and Chris drum n’ bass jam, it doesn’t make it any less of an awesome track. Muse fans have wanted to hear Chris take the lead vocally for a while, and these three minutes of modern rock bliss is exactly what they expected it to sound like. Awesome.
12. ‘The 2nd Law: Unsustainable’ – The not-really dubstep track that started it all. It’s more of a song built around Matt Bellamy messing around with distortion pedals and his famous kaoss pad than an actual dubstep song. Hard to tell if they’ll attempt to play live. As an experimental track, even though it’s not good, they get points for trying.
13. ‘The 2nd Law: Isolated System’ – Muse have a knack for finishing albums with a bang, as evidence by The Resistance’s three part Exogenesis symphony and ‘Knights of Cydonia’ off Black Holes & Revelation. Add to that the album sub-title on this song, and you’re expecting something epic, yes? Instead what we get is an evasive, slow piano instrumental. It sounds more like something you’d hear at the credits of a movie, and not the main credits, that second song that comes on after everyone has left and they’re still scrolling all the PA’s names. A terribly anticlimactic way to end the album.
So that’s The 2nd Law. Unfortunately it’s as bad as we initially feared. Not only is it hands down their worst album to date, but it boasts several entries on their worst individual songs to date as well. It’s a shame when your favorite band completely goes off the deep end but that seems to be the case with Muse. One could would say “at least you’ve got their live shows” but being that they like to ignore the back catalogue, play 90 minute sets maximum and will be playing at least five songs off The 2nd Law (using The Resistance Tour is a barometer), it’s not worth the likely $100+ price tag for arena gigs. Farewell Muse, it was fun while it lasted. Oh, and it’s not me, it’s you.
As a live music fan, we’ve been incredibly bored the last two weeks as most of the late night shows have been on break because of the Olympics. Imagine our excitement when we heard that Muse and the remaining members of Queen (sorry Paul Rodgers, you don’t count) would be performing during the closing ceremonies. We were all ready to post this epic video of Muse’s “Survival” leading to Brian May shredding before band mate Roger Taylor and (alleged superstar) Jessie J joined him for “We Will Rock You” until NBC filed a copyright claim on YouTube. It’s alright though. Thanks to the awesome Muse message board, we were able to at least get our hands on Muse’s performance. Enjoy it below:
By now you’ve all had a chance to digest Muse’s new album trailer. If you haven’t watched it, check it now.
Are you confused, excited or disappointed?
Where exactly is Muse taking us with this new album, The 2nd Law?
We asked two of our writers, Michel Dussack and Emilia D’Albero, to analyze the trailer and the promising (or bleak) future for the band’s new music.
Feel free to share you thoughts in the comments section below.
So here’s the thing – from what I’ve seen about half the fans are happily receiving this new sound, and the other half are screaming in horror ready to throw their copies of Origin of Symmetry in a bonfire. The focus of this piece is going to be those last 30 seconds that has everyone divided, because I think we can all agree that the beginning, while excellent, is nothing new from a band that has consistently experimented with orchestration and bombast.
Fans and certain news outlets were quick to point out that Muse had ‘gone dubstep’ and likened them to Skrillex almost immediately. I’d like to address two points here. Firstly, they haven’t gone dubstep. IT’S A 30 SECOND CLIP! Maybe some people feel comfortable judging an entire album of material based on 30 seconds, but personally, I’d like to wait for the album to actually be released before condemning them to a new genre. Let’s look, for a moment, at what happens if I take 30 seconds of each of their prior albums out of context. If we take ‘Unintended’ from Showbiz, they’re an acoustic ballad band; ‘Micro Cuts’ from Origin of Symmetry makes them some weird band with an extreme falsetto based singer; ‘Interlude’ from Absolution makes them an instrumental band; ‘Take a Bow’ from Black Holes and Revelations makes them an electronica band; ‘Guiding Light’ from The Resistance makes them a cheesy anthem band. So clearly we can’t just take pieces of music out of context.
I’d like to add in, that I wouldn’t even call what we hear in this video dubstep. It begins as a guitar riff, and throughout the clip is distorted and warped beyond recognition, much as guitarist Matthew Bellamy typically does with his Kaoss pad in a live environment, but in a similar pattern as dubstep. Yes there are the wubwubwubwub noises you’d expect, but beneath it is also Dominic Howard’s drumming and Christopher Wolstenholme’s bass line. It’s not straight dubstep, instead it’s a fusion with rock, and it’s something that seems a natural progression given the handful of electronic tracks on the last couple albums.
My second point is that for some reason, dubstep has become a dirty word in the music world. People like to hate it. And the people that do have good reason to – some of it is awful. But to witness dubstep in a live environment by a master of the art, it clear that this is more than a few wubwubs and a ‘drop’. Dubstep blends all sorts of seemingly random noises to create music, and to be able to manipulate that many sounds at once like some artists do, is nothing short of art. So what I’m really trying to say is, so what if Muse makes a dubstep song? If anyone can pull it off, especially in a live environment, Muse can. Take Bellamy’s guitar playing along with his ability to manipulate sounds via the aforementioned Kaoss pad and touring musician Morgan Nicholls and they’d be able to do it better than anyone in the business, without the need for giant stage setups. Muse have never been a band that puts out what other people want to hear, and it honestly feels like this is a natural combination of some of the heavier elements from their songs and their electronica tracks.
Obviously this video has polarized their fans, but what it’s really done, is create such a stir in the music community that it’s hard to avoid talking about it. Isn’t that exactly what an album trailer is supposed to do?
There is no denying it- many of Muse’s strengths are in their live performances. Matt Bellamy is a terrific, entertaining frontman who knows how to work and crowd and an instrument at the same time, which is very rare these days. The band has won numerous awards for their live performances, including NME’s “Best Live Band” award and Q’s “Best Live Act in the World Today,” all of which are extremely impressive and extremely accurate. Anyone who has ever seen Muse perform would agree with this, but there is certainly a reason why this band has come so far and become so well-known for their performances. It’s simple, really- Muse know how to rock. Or at least, they used to. Nowadays, you get “Newborn,” “Time is Running Out,” and “Supermassive Black Hole” (and maybe “Citizen Erased,” if you’re lucky) during the main set, and “Knights of Cydonia” in the encore, and the rest of the set is full of their newer, lighter tracks that the fans don’t seem to enjoy as much.
A few years ago, Muse would play some of their heavier tracks, like “Dead Star” and “Hysteria,” and their crowds would go wild, moshing and jumping and screaming lyrics. Since the release of their most recent album, The Resistance, the energy level at their shows has dipped; during their set at L.A. Rising last summer, Muse played a few tracks off of The Resistance and some people in the crowd who were waiting to see Rage Against the Machine actually started setting things on fire to pass the time. If that isn’t a hint to bring back the heavier stuff, I don’t know what is. My point is, Muse are known and loved for their ability to seriously rock and blow the roof off of a venue, which you simply cannot do with orchestral music and Bellamy’s underdeveloped version of dubstep. What would you rather hear from a live rock band, the “Heartbreaker” riff or Bellamy twiddling randomly on his Kaoss pad for 30 seconds? I’ll take the riff, please.
There is a reason I don’t pay to see Skrillex or any other dubstep artist live- If I’m paying for a show, I should at least be paying for an entertaining show, not to watch a guy with a stupid haircut press buttons and spin knobs. Matt Bellamy has an exciting personality on stage; he does crazy dances, abuses his instruments in the best of ways, and he really knows how to entertain a crowd while still being the incredible musician that he is. I believe that most fans would want to see Bellamy dancing around the stage and only playing with the Kaoss pad a little bit, instead of seeing him produce dubstep with the Kaoss pad.
I mentioned before the shift in setlist quality from then to now, which supports the argument for my next point- experimenting isn’t always a good thing. Sure, Matt Bellamy is an excellent composer and I love when he puts bits of classical music into his songs, like “Butterflies and Hurricanes,” but writing a 3-part “symphony” was a little strange for a rock band. I understand that Muse have always been somewhat strange and so has their music, but they have always come back to their roots- good, loud, head-bang-able rock music. I respect the decision and ability of a band to experiment with their sound and change things around, but sometimes it just doesn’t work.
The Resistance is a prime example of how Muse’s experimentation just didn’t work; “United States of Eurasia” was pretty but boring, “Guiding Light” is almost unbearable to listen to, and the “Exogenesis” symphony left me wondering if Bellamy was playing a joke on us or if he had really forgotten that a guitar riff is a thing that exists. Since then, the material that Muse have been putting out has just gotten progressively worse. “Neutron Star Collision” is an abomination of a song that I listened to twice and am still trying very hard to forget about, and now this “album trailer”. This video does not show Muse’s progress since The Resistance; if anything, it shows regression.
They have simply taken the “dystopian conflict” theme too far, and this video makes it extremely cheesy. I mean, really, Muse? Violins playing a quick, frightening tune over a concerned-looking news anchor talking about an energy crisis? It’s like you composed the soundtrack for watching the news. Even the graphics in the video seem similar to the graphics they used on The Resistance Tour in the last few years. Quickly changing numbers and images of an imperfect world are getting old, as is the use of classical music. We’re fully aware of what an incredible classical musician Bellamy is, but I think that he should use that particular talent for composing more film scores instead of symphonies on his albums. As I mentioned before, the fans have had a more intense reaction to their heavier stuff, and many have scorned their most recent releases. Quite frankly, I am hoping that this 2 minutes video is not an accurate preview of what’s to come, but rather an overdramatic publicity stunt to get people interested to see what Muse will be doing next.
Of course, there is a possibility that Muse are, in fact, “trolling”. Back in November when they started recording, Bellamy took to Twitter and asked the fans what “musical direction” the band should go in. Obviously they received a flood of responses and Bellamy jokingly responded with “Ok, will start on christian gangsta rap jazz odyssey, some ambient rebellious dubstep and face melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia.” Obviously putting all of that on one album would be difficult, if not impossible, but it seems like Bellamy is attempting to do at least some of it in the album trailer. Muse fans have always been a bit overzealous, to put it lightly, and Muse have always been a bit ridiculous and bombastic, so I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if The 2nd Law were just an elaborate hoax to get the fans riled up and ready for the real album to drop. The other element of the video that makes me think that it could be a joke is the font that they used. Call me crazy, but the block letters look like something I could have created on Microsoft Powerpoint in the 5th grade. I just think that Muse are classy enough to have chosen a more elegant, appropriate font for the heavy subject matter that they are tackling with this video.
In my opinion, the video as a whole is a little too ridiculous and cheesy to be legitimate, and I desperately hope that Muse are just tricking us. However, this is a two-way street; either Muse are trolling us and there is an actual, decent album behind all this The 2nd Law nonsense, or they really have lost the plot and this sort of bombastic garbage is what they think their fans want to hear. If it turns out to be the latter, I probably won’t be buying a ticket to see them when they come to the New York City area. I guess all we can do is wait and see what happens…
For our second day of coverage at Outside Lands Festival, our writer Ace Ubas mostly stuck to the heavy hitters to catch Muse, The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys. Check out his review below as well as photos from Marcello Ambriz
Since I’m in San Francisco, I figured I should check out some of the local talent that the City by the Bay has to offer. Luckily, I stumbled upon the Free Yr Radio tent and checked out the San Francisco quartet Vetiver. Since they were playing later on that afternoon on the Sutro Stage, they played 3 songs to a handful of people. After playing “Wonder Why” from their latest effort, The Errant Charm, they surely infected me with their country charm and folk sensibilities. After answering a couple of questions from the radio host, they ended their session with the b-side “Wishing Well” and “More of This” from the album Tight Knit.
Lands End Stage: OK Go
Having been known for their widely popular music videos, it’s expected that OK Go put on an eye-catching, attention-grabbing live performance as well. With a voice intro telling men and women to scream, to which they obliged, the quartet entered the stage with each member wearing brightly, solid colored suits. They jumped right into “Do What You Want” to a surprisingly packed Polo Field.
They followed it up with “White Knuckles” that featured both a bass solo from Tim Nordwin and a brief guitar solo from Andy Ross. At one point, vocalist Damian Kulash turned into a preacher and proclaimed San Francisco to be a ‘dirty town’ and its inhabitants ‘sinners.’ According to him, there was only one way to cleanse the city: with the song “What to Do.” But they arranged the song in a rather unique manner, using only an arrangement of bells. After cleansing the city of its sins, Kulash’s bandmates left the stage, leaving him with his acoustic guitar. He jumped into the crowd and said that it was better if he played “Last Leaf” with everyone around him. It wasn’t hard for the band to instill energy into the crowd, as they consistently interacted with them. It also didn’t hurt that they played “Here We Go Again.”
Lands End Stage: Arctic Monkeys
For the days leading up to Outside Lands, the one band that I continuously listened to was the Arctic Monkeys. From their first album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not to their latest Suck It and See, I was getting myself pumped to see them live for the first time. The only downside to them playing was that they only had an hour-long set. However, that didn’t stop them from packing all the songs they could as they played around 15 or so songs.
They opened up with the barreling “Liberty Pictures” and from the very first note they played, the crowd was fired up. Guitarist Jamie Cook showed how loud he could get by playing blistering riffs that echoed throughout the field. “Crying Lighting” saw drummer Matt Helders creating a catchy marching beat while vocalist/guitarist Alex Turner howled the lyrics. The crowd participated on songs “Brick by Brick,” “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala,” and “If You Were There, Beware” as they sang along and clapped their hands as loud as they could. Overall, they played a good balance of songs from all their albums, which appealed to both new and old fans. It would’ve been appropriate if they played “Fake Tales of San Francisco,” but they ended the show with garage numbers “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “Do Me a Favour,” as they put on one of the better performances of the weekend until…….
Lands End Stage: The Black Keys
The Black Keys hit the stage. I have a confession: prior to their performance, I never really gave the Black Keys a good listen. Yes I said it. Other than a couple of singles off their latest Grammy-nominated album Brothers, I didn’t really care for the Akron, Ohio duo. Why? Because blues-infused garage rock never really appealed to me. That’s until I heard them live.
With the stage decorated by an oversized dream-catcher and a humongous tire with their name on it, drummer Patrick Carney and vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach hit the stage to a thunderous ovation. I was immediately sold and regretted not buying into the hype early on as they took charge of the stage and the crowd by force. By the time they got to the third song of their set, “The Breaks,” my head began to hurt because of the head bobbing I was doing. Auerbach’s soulful singing on “Chop and Change” hypnotized the crowd, while “Howlin’ For You” and “Tighten Up” got the loudest cheers, for the obvious reasons.
They even played a new song where they brought out a few other musicians to help them along. But with their sound, you would already have thought that they have a full band. On a stage so big with tens of thousands of people watching, it’s hard to image that such force can come from only two people. Both Auerbach and Carney are so ridiculously good at their instruments that the Broken Social Scene would blush that they have who-knows-how-many members. Congratulations Mr. Auerbach and Mr. Carney, you gentlemen have managed to feed me my crow and it’s quite delicious.
Lands End Stage: Muse
Muse should be used to playing in front of thousands of people on the festival circuit. Just a couple of weeks ago, they headlined Lollapalooza so Outside Lands should be a breeze for them. Patrons did have a choice, however, as Girl Talk played at the same time as Muse. People who chose to watch the British act made the best decision they could ever make at a music festival.
With sirens blaring and fog arising from the stage, Muse emerged from the back as they jumped right into a trio of hits in “Uprising,” “Supermassive Black Hole,” and “Hysteria.” They even threw in a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner leading into “Hysteria.” By this time, the crowd was already in a state of ecstasy (and maybe the drug too, who knows).
The pace slowed down every time vocalist/guitarist Matt Bellamy sat behind his piano such as on songs “Guiding Light” and “Butterflies & Hurricanes.” He proved that he has a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde complex: he is a beast holding his six-stringed weapon, but vulnerable and powerfully emotional behind the ivory keys. But these songs showed just how big Bellamy’s voice really is. There is no venue in the world that can contain his theatrical/operatic voice.
“United States of Eurasia” reminded me of Queen. It starts off beautifully with a piano ballad, but an epic explosion of sonic fury follows after (that’s how amazing it was). Other songs they played included “Citizen Erased,” “Resistance,” “House of the Rising Sun” that led to “Time is Running Out,” “Starlight,” and set closer (and personal favorite) “Stockholm Syndrome.” During this group of songs, the crowd was jumping and moshing with intense passion as they were drenched in green rays of light.
And if that wasn’t enough they came back for a two-song encore with large balloons falling on the crowd. The first of the two was “Plug In Baby” that featured bassist Christopher Wolstenholme on the harmonica while they ended the night with “Knights of Cydonia,” where the crowd got loud as they can as they sang and cheered until the very end. There really is nothing left to say, other than what a way to end a night. My mind is officially blown.
Muse played their first US show of 2011 of this past Saturday at the LA Memorial Coliseum for L.A. Rising. Though the band wasn’t headlining (that duty would go to the lineup’s organizers Rage Against The Machine), they played the coliseum rocking set just as everyone expected from them. Our photographer Marcello Ambriz) was there to capture Matt Bellamy and the boys in all their glory. Check out his photos below and catch Muse this weekend at the Lollapalooza Festival.
Written by Lavina Loya, Photos by Marcello Ambriz
VIVA LA REVOLUCION! seemed to be the overall motto of the day. Thousands of fans descended upon the L.A. Memorial Coliseum for the first (and maybe only) L.A. Rising concert/awareness event. The day was hosted by Los Angelesʼs own political whistleblowers, Rage Against the Machine. The band called upon five of their fellow musician friends to help spread the word…what that word was, no one was exactly sure. Most were too busy pounding $10 beer and bacon wrapped hotdogs to find out. The effort wasnʼt entirely lost on all, the designated “Re-Education Camp” was set up somewhat like a military base and served as a platform for dozens of social and political awareness groups to voice their issues and gather supporters. The camp also displayed a handful of street artist and LOTS of free swag, because nothing makes people open their eyes and start caring more than a free T-shirt.
The performances started at 3:00 and because of the intense traffic surrounding the Coliseum only about 40% of fans had even made their way through the gates. El Grand Silencio and Immortal Technique did their thing to a modest crowd of, like, A LOT of people down on the field…most of which had gotten there as early as possible to claim their places in the front row for Muse and Rage Against The Machine. Keep in mind itʼs very easy for a 100,000 seat stadium to appear empty and the two latin-based groups were definitely worth checking out if you were in the building and not stuck in traffic on MLK Blvd. I sat at the very top of the stadium and took in the performances, the cool breeze and the lack of chaos… for the last time that entire evening.
Things were about to get cramped.
At the start of Ms. Lauryn Hillʼs set it seemed like a tidal wave of concert-goers entered the grounds. What was a casual stroll to get some nachos was now an extreme sport and an exercise in agility. Ms. Hill took the stage with a full band and backup singers and kicked things off with a drastically different version of “Killing Me Softly”. The unfamiliar melody combined with battling a bit of feedback from her monitors made for a lackluster start. She made a decent effort to cover her hits with “Everything Is Everything,” “Ready or Not” and “Doo Whop(That Thing.)” I wasnʼt sure whether to take the vanilla performance as humbleness or indifference, but either way the slightest urge to eat or drink something could have easily pried you away from the performance. Hey, at least she showed up.
The field level general admission area was divided into 3 sections and filled with fans from the front to back based on how early (or how late) you arrived. The only consolation a could see for being in the very back in section 3 was your close proximity to the beer garden set up right in their area and come the start of Rise Against that very last section was the first to start a mosh pit. Coincidence? I think not. Rise Against has always somehow flown right under the radar for me. I know they have been fairly popular for quite sometime, yet until tonight, never realized just how many hits the band has had. There are a lot, and they covered them all.
The already heavily political band used the days theme to re-enforce the message of songs like “Re-Education(Through Labor)” and “Help Is On The Way.” The band had a simple set with no bells and whistles but played loud and played aggressive; injecting some much needed energy into the crowd. Tim McIIrathʼs vocals were clear and impressive for “Audience Of One” and “Hero Of War.” With the heat of the days sun backing off and on its way out fans were looking alive for the final one-two punch of
closing songs “Ready To Fall” and “Savior”
I think Muse thought they were headlining this shindig…and brought their A game. They dropped down an illuminated honeycomb shaped backdrop (by far the most elaborate of the night) and the cheers start roaring. Itʼs dark out now and the crowd had poured more than enough alcohol in their face to really get amped up…and itʼs freakin Muse! Of course they’re amped! Maybe itʼs that theyʼre used to playing those insanely large European festivals, but Muse knows and understands how to play to a large crowd. They have the rock star dance down pat and slayed a 14 song set. The mosh pits gave way to synchronized fist pumping as “The Uprising” and “Supermassive Black Hole” are not all that conducive to the ritual. You could almost see the hardcore Rage fans having to mentally give in and accept the fact that Muse was putting on one hell of a rock show. Singer Matt Bellamy has a voice and technique that is hard to top and he showed off every bit of it for “Hysteria” and “Resistance”. Smoke is shooting up from the stage, lights and lasers are going off and about 2/3 into the set they release dozens of huge balloons shaped like eyeballs into the crowd. Everyone is one the same page. The “Holy Jesus Muse Rocks” page.
Muse got the crowd involved with instrumental interludes of Led Zeppelinʼs “Heartbreaker” and the crowd sang along to “House of the Rising Sun.” The band closed the set on a high note with the epic “Knights of Cydonia” and from cover to cover blew the doors off the joint.
Anxiousness is thick in the air and anticipation is growing; everyone is seated and waiting and those without seats on the field level are already moshing to the songs playing between sets. The huge red star banner at the back of the stadium is suddenly spotlit and the same red star banner is slowly rises up from the floor to the sound of an air raid siren. The band walks out in the shadows and the crowd is like a water balloon filled to capacity and ready to explode. They lay into the intro to “Testify” the mood is electric; fans instantly start rushing the barricades and just as Rage Against The Machine frontman Zack De La Rocha leans in to utter the first lyrics of the set…………
His mic goes out.
A flood of “boos” washed over the arena, but the band didnʼt miss a beat and kept it going. The sound issues happened a few more times before it was resolved and the crowd quickly got over it. The entire field morphed into what looked like one throbbing, pulsating entity for “Bombtrack” and “ People Of the Sun”. What started as one moshpit turned into seven and it was getting intense. “Bulls on Parade and “Bullet in the Head” prompted one moshpit in particular to up the ante and start a bonfire in the center of the pit, flames eventually getting so high the LAPD and LAFD were called in to extinguish the fire and the moshpit. As soon as the cops and firefighter left the fans proceeded to start another one right back up. This went on four times.
Seeing a firefighter in full suit stand in the middle of a functioning moshpit is certainly a sight to see and I can only imagine one is not trained in moshpit fire extinguishing. Rage went straight for personal favorite “Down Rodeo” then right into “Guerrilla Radio” and the energy level has not budged. Out of control concert-goers are being tackled to the ground by security one after the other and at this point I donʼt know whether to watch the band or the crowd. Both highly entertaining. Zack looked slightly winded but seemed to push on through to the remaining two songs of the main set, “Sleep Now In The Fire” and the appropriate “Wake Up.”
Chanting fans stayed put for the encore and the band delivered “Freedom” and “Killing In The Name Of” before heading off stage for good. Although the crowd overall was harmonious, there was an indescribable layer of unpredictability and tension; like fans at a moments notice were ready to riot…but that line was never crossed and we made it out alive… L.A., you are nothing if not consistent! Hearing the roars and screams made you glad to be seeing such a monumental show on a perfect summer night in the city of angels. It made you forget the two hours it took to park, the crowds and the heat. Sure the show had its hiccups and maybe the lineup could have included more bands but overall it was well worth the price of admission.
Cue mass exodus and the two hour trip out of the parking lot.