Saturday, March 06, 2010

Muse rocks the Garden

I may have covered this before, but I first discovered Muse through Guitar Hero.  "Knights of Cydonia" was one of the final songs on Guitar Hero III, and I'd never heard of the band or the song before.  But when I played it in the game I thought "these guys rock."  I played the song in the game for James at my Super Bowl party in 2008, but he seemed unimpressed at the time.  Three weeks later, he arrived early to cook for my Oscar party and plugged his iPod into the speakers in my kitchen.  He put on some music I didn't recognize, so I asked him what it was.  He said it was Muse's album Black Holes & Revelations, and that "Knights of Cydonia" wasn't even the best song on the album.  I was hooked.  I bought the album the next day and acquired the rest of Muse's back catalog shortly thereafter.  They're a rock band, but with symphonic influences, the occasional turn toward pop music and even some funk now and then.  I'm starting to think they were put here on Earth to cater to all of my musical tastes at once.

Last Saturday I was at Madison Square Garden for a Knicks game.  While there, I saw a "coming attractions" poster and noticed that Muse was coming to the Garden on March 5.  I looked at my watch.  This weekend?!  How did I not know about this?  When I got home I got on Stubhub and looked up ticket prices.  They were steep, but there was no way I was going to miss this show.  On Sunday morning I talked to James, who agreed we had to go, and I got the tickets.

The show was this evening (Friday), and it was everything I could have hoped for and then some.  The stage had three large pillars on it which I assumed was the backdrop for the band on the floor of the stage.  When the lights went down the pillars lit up and became the backdrop for video projections that were reminiscent of Pink Floyd and Rush concerts of years past.  Then the pillars parted vertically to show the members of the band, one on each pillar.  They opened with "Uprising," the hit from their most recent album, The Resistance.  The second song was the title track from the album, and while I was enjoying the show, the songs sounded a little too much like the album versions.  As the second song ended, the pillars lowered the band to the floor of the stage and they launched into "New Born."  And that's where they really started to rock my face off. 

The next two hours were filled with all of the songs I could have wanted to hear and maybe a few I hadn't expected.  (Here's the full set list.)  The crowd had a few too many teenagers and kids in their twenties for my liking, and that made me feel just a bit old.  But I didn't care.  Matthew Bellamy, the lead singer and guitarist, twirled, jumped, and danced around the stage while singing and abusing his guitar.  Bassist Christoper Wolstenholme was a rock, a la John Entwistle, remaining stationary at his microphone and providing the foundation for the band.  Drummer Dominic Howard had the middle pillar to himself and with his drums on a rotating platform he could face the back of the stage and entertain the fans in the obstructed view seats.  While the band played, the video projections alternated between trippy visuals of political protests, buildings collapsing, nature scenes, and of course the band members themselves as they jammed onstage.  The show was well worth the exorbitant price I paid Stubhub for the privilege.  I'd go see it again if I had the chance.

One other note: Muse is the first band I've seen live in their prime since 1992.  My first rock concert ever was Metallica and Guns N' Roses in 1992 at Three Rivers Stadium, and even then GNR was a little overblown.  Since then, it's been a steady stream of "geezer rock," including Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, Van Halen, The Who, and even The Rolling Stones in 1997.  I hadn't seen a "modern" rock band in almost twenty years until Friday night.  As my old rock bands are now leaving the stage, I suppose I'll have to find more new acts to see live if I want to remain relevant.  Or I could just keep going to the Philharmonic, where long-dead composers still rule.

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