Musing on the Muse Concert
Jerry Lucky Commentary April 2010
Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2010 All Rights Reserved
When Classic Rock presents PROG suggested that Muse may not bring their full stage set-up to this continent I was
disappointed, and then I discovered on the internet that they in fact did bring the stage set…and having just experienced the concert
(Vancouver BC April 1, 2010) I’m sure glad they did. For me (and probably most people) if all you wanted to do was listen to the music you have the CD, but when you see a band live you want to see more and Muse really delivered performing mostly material for their last two CDs Black Holes and Revelations andThe Resistance.
You can find all sorts of videos on-line, some better than others that will show you what the staging actually looked like so I won’t bore you with the details, as a matter of fact It would take too long to describe what it actually looked like and I probably wouldn’t do it justice. In a nut shell here’s what you saw; three risers going up and down, dozens of massive moving lights, plenty of green laser effects, video projections of the band and other produced clips and over a dozen giant balloons filled with ticker-tape bouncing on audience members heads. The way the six video screens were assembled anyone sitting anywhere in the arena got a spectacular view. This was really a massive show.
It was not surprising to me that the vast majority of the crowd was younger. I’m quite sure the few progressive rock fans that were there were dwarfed by the majority who would probably have heard Muse on various modern rock radio stations. I make this observation by the way the crowd would erupt into cheers whenever the band performed one of their acknowledged radio singles like “Starlight” [3:59] or “Uprising” [5:02] and yet stayed suspiciously quieter for selections like “United States of Eurasia” [5:47] or “Exogenesis: Symphony Part 1” [4:18]. No matter really, there was a good blend of material and the band made no pretence about hiding their love of the more proggy side of their craft. In fact one might have come away from the concert thinking the more familiar pieces were inserted to satisfy the masses all the while exposing them to the band’s meatier compositions. It’s impossible for me to say that this was the plan, but Muse fans left the show clearly seeing the band’s more complex side.
Muse is a bit of an anomaly; died in the wool prog fans tend to view the band with some suspicion (are they really that proggy?) and many in their fan base simply see them as an Indy band (and couldn’t care less about exploring their proggy side). And while in the live venue the band make no mention of prog there is no question that the complexity of some of the material and their layered arrangements certainly are brought to the fore; especially when the band performs the music with all the time and tempo changes intact such as in “Unnatural Selection” [6:54].
Watching Muse perform reaffirmed in my mind that some prog bands are better suited to the large performance venue than others. Especially with today’s audience, that like it or not can be somewhat attention-span disadvantaged. I’m talking in generalities but much research out there points to how audiences today may not be that keen in investing a serious amount of time to sit through even the most accomplished noodleing. They want it now and Muse seemed to come up with the right combination to hold the audience’s attention. I saw no one heading off to get a burger during some of the band’s less mainstream material.
On the down side? Well my pet peeves at live shows remain. It was simply TOO LOUD. At times the sound was just crushing. I’m convinced too many sound engineers (who by the way tend to use headphones and so never hear the event like we do) gained their skills from watching the Spinal Tap movie and think the answer is simply to turn the volume up to “eleven.” Listen, simply making it louder doesn’t make it better. And the other thing is when people buy a ticket that has a seat number you should use it. If you want to stand there is plenty of space on the floor to go and stand and dance or do whatever you want to do. It’s just downright rude to buy a seat and then STAND in front of the people behind you and then EXPECT that they should stand as well. It’s yet another thing that we can thank the “me generation” for, people who just think of no one but themselves.
Muse was easily one of the most spectacular shows I’ve seen and certainly ranks up there in the top 5 along with Yes, AWBH, Genesis etc. If you have a chance to see the show by all means make every effort to go, I don’t think you’ll be the least bit disappointed.
Jerry Lucky (4/3/10)