Nailing down exactly what genre of music can describe Muse is not an easy task. There’s some pop in there, certainly what’s defined as alternative, they also sometimes sound like a synth band and if you’ve ever seen them live metal comes to mind.
Regardless, the band brought all of that and more on Thursday to the Rose Garden in Portland during the North American leg of their 2nd Law tour and showed why their popularity is squared around the stage show.
An extensive laser and light showed ruled the evening perfectly choreographed along with Matthew Bellamy’s soaring vocals and driving guitar, Christopher Wolsten’s thumping bass and Dominic Howard’s pounding drums. The English trio (along with a fourth somewhat hidden keyboardist) wasted little time during their 18-song set and gave the surprisingly modest crowd an energy filled show.
The band opened with the dubstep inspired instrumental “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable,” one of two title tracks from their latest album, and continued with the first song off of The 2nd Law, the James Bond inspired “Supremacy.” The band openly admits the song is Bond-like and wanted it to be the theme for the latest Bond flick – Skyfall. The Bond hook is clearly evident and someone messed up somewhere because it destroys Adele’s song.
Muse played eight songs from The 2nd Law (if you count “The 2nd Law: Isolated System” which was likely sampled) and whatever statement Muse is trying to say this time the band does not seem to be succumbing to its effects. The album is generally a little easier on the ears than previous efforts but on the other hand it further proves, perhaps intentionally, why the band may be in its own genre.
Muse clearly has its own muse both in music and concert. The stage show has Queen and U2 written all over it and any number of bands can be heard clearly and subtly off the new album: Talking Heads, Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, Pray TV, even a Broadway musical, and Coldplay is in there somewhere. Somehow Muse successfully infuses its own brand of rock and energy, encapsulates it, and makes it their own.
Whether it’s the hard-driving “Stockholm Syndrome,” the melodramatic “Time is Running Out,” the wonderfully melodious “Starlight” or the catchy new pop single “Madness” Muse delivers an equal blend of thought, catchy hooks and charge-forward delivery. What cannot be discounted as it certainly adds to the live performance is the unseen member of the band which is the stage show.
It’s clear how the band developed a strong following across the pond so early on if the live performance was indeed a contributing factor. The timing is intense, they have to play tight and the band has little room for error. The lights and the lasers and all the TV screens (at one point the band was engulfed by a triangle of screens) create a pure excess of imagery that few bands bother with these days and a sensory which Muse cannot translate onto the digital recording.
That being said Muse is also hopefully paying their sound and production engineers a hefty salary because without them Muse might just be another decent act from Britain.
Muse Portland Setlist (Rose Garden):
1. The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
3. Supermassive Black Hole
4. Panic Station
6. Map of the Problematique
7. Knights of Cydonia
8. Monty Jam
10. Follow Me
11. Liquid State
13. Undisclosed Desires
14. Time is Running Out
15. Stockholm Syndrome
16. The 2nd Law: Isolated System