Review: Vancouver is thoroughly a’Mused
English rock band Muse perform at Rogers Arena on Feb. 6, 2013. (Anil Sharma for CTV News)
Published Thursday, February 7, 2013 8:36AM PST
Last Updated Thursday, February 7, 2013 8:54AM PST
When a city of Vancouver’s magnitude has to wait until February 6th for its first major league rock concert of the year, it might as well be a big one.
And so it was as the English indie-prog colossus known as Muse rolled into Rogers Arena last night. The theme for the evening? Too much is just about enough.
The chief architect in this celebration of grandiosity was frontman Matt Bellamy. Blessed with the falsetto of Jeff Buckley and the guitar chops of Tom Morello, he’s also developed a stage persona that would make Freddie Mercury resemble a pathological introvert.
Bellamy came out blasting, opener “Supremacy” showcasing his twin talents with its strange blend of bruising Black Sabbath riffery and 21st Century aria. “Supermassive Black Hole” was even more impressive, its arrival marked by the band’s immense and high definition lighting rig descending from the roof. Bellamy further upped the drama ante for “Resistance,” bounding onto a platform jutting into the crowd, conducting an arena-sized clap-along, and dropping onto his knees for one of countless masterful solos. Scrambling back onto the main stage he spent a solid minute squeezing electronic farts from his guitar before launching into “Plug in Baby,” somehow managing to rip a few notes from “Sweet Child O’Mine” into its final coda.
Space cowboy epic “Knights of Cydonia” was a clear highlight (bass player Chris Wolstenholme inflicting a monumental bangover on himself) before a Grand Piano emerged from the floor, allowing Bellamy to tinkle the ivories for the bizarrely AORish “Explorers”. Perhaps a band exploring the edges of its sound? Perhaps a band providing a generous opportunity for a bathroom break?
Even when Bellamy left the spotlight, leaving Wolstenholme to take lead vocals on “Liquid State,” he stole it back by striding around atop the lighting set up surrounding the stage. The real frontman was in the crowd for “Undisclosed Desires,” his note-perfect vocals never wavering as he shook hands with dozens of overexcited fans.
The heaviest song of the night, “Stockholm Syndrome,” was also one of the best, climaxing with Bellamy screaming “Freedom” as the band launched into the riff from the Rage Against The Machine song of the same name. While the velocity and intensity increased, the lighting rig above them descended until it covered the band entirely. As the tension mounted during a lengthy video featuring terrified people fleeing from shifting landscapes, the rig lifted to reveal, wait for it, that drummer Dominic Howard had changed into a red Bruce Lee jump suit! The accompanying song, “Uprising,” climaxed with Bellamy delivering one final shred, knocking his amp around, letting his guitar drop to the ground, and saluting the crowd in gladiatorial glory.
For a band whose music is so perfectly suited to soundtracking TV sports credits and highlight reels, Muse understand the importance of the over-the-top statement. Every song contained the musical equivalent of the 360-degree dunk or Ray Lewis dance. Even with one of the highest production values to ever bless a rock and roll tour, Bellamy still took every conceivable opportunity to drop to his knees to rip a solo or sing a verse. Any time he put his guitar down his vocals were aided by the sweeping hand gestures so clearly taught to every successful American Idol finalist. Pompous? Yes. Pretentious? Absolutely. But that confidence is based on ability. If you’ve got it, you might as well flaunt it.
Musical talent is still at the core of Muse’s skyward trajectory. But it’s Matt Bellamy’s mastery of the art of showing off that will keep filling arenas for years to come.