English rockers Muse brought lights, a diverse setlist and even a bunch of high flying drones to Portland on Sunday night at the Moda Center as part of the band’s world tour in support of the trio’s seventh studio album Drones.
Muse rocked out 19* songs during an hour and 45 minute set that included everything the band is known for in their live performances – a dominate stage show featuring a whole lot of lights, video display and of course some stellar playing.
A dozen or so guards, who looked like the distant cousins of Star Wars’ Stormtroopers, rolled in with the house lights on lining alongside the stage on the opposite side of a railing that served to keep the general admission audience from the platform, which let everyone know the show was about to begin. Once in place, giant pod-like balls lined with LED lights descended from the ceiling and hovered above the crowd using a number of drone-style propulsion fans to stay afloat and maneuver in different formations just out of hands reach of the audience before the move over the main stage.
Muse then emerged on their “in the round” stage which was immense dwarfing the area that normally contains the facility’s basketball court. The stage stretched from one end of the arena bowl to the other with the main set up in the middle, housed on a turn table. Singer and guitarist Matt Bellamy and Bassist Chris Wolstenhome walked freely using the end stages frequently while drummer Dominic Howard and a fourth player helping out on keyboards remained stationary.
Muse dove right into the new album starting the evening with the vulgar “Psycho” and then “Dead Inside” the first track off Drones before tackling older material beginning with “Hysteria” off their popular Absolution and then reaching farther back tapping into their sophomore release with “Plug in Baby” from Origin of Symmetry.
“The 2nd Law: Isolated System” the final track off 2012’s The 2nd Law came next and musically fits right in with everything off Drones but was mostly a pre-recorded piece with Howard playing fills and their extra on keyboards. Though The 2nd Law features a number of solid cuts with crowd friendly tempos and melodies “Isolated System” actually served as a decent lead-in to “The Handler” from the new album, one of the few transitions between songs that worked thanks to a virtual marionette hand with strings attached to Bellamy and Wolstenholme as they played.
Muse put Drones to bed for a bit breaking out the hits first with “Resistance,” then “Supermassive Black Hole” with the prerecorded short “Prelude” off Drones snuck in before their smash and audience favorite “Starlight.” This was the first time Bellamy really engaged the audience urging them on to sing the chorus which undermined the strength of “Starlight” because it’s Bellamy’s vocals, not the audience that propels this song to greatness.
“The United States of Eurasia” showed off Bellamy’s piano skills and then it was Wolstenhome and Howard’s turn in the spotlight with their instrumental “Munich Jam” featuring a head bobbing riff that would make Dave Mustaine proud. “Madness” the smash hit from The 2nd Law was the last off that album for the evening and Muse finished the string of older material with the Depeche Mode sounding “Undisclosed Desires.”
“JFK” (a portion of President John F. Kennedy’s speech before the Newspapers Publishers Association in 1961 featured as a “song” on Drones) served as a break between the older material before Muse played “Revolt” but they went right back to their popular fare with “Time Is Running Out” and “Uprising” again bringing in the audience to take over singing duties on select portions of the songs and again taking away from Bellamy’s passionate vocals. He’s got to be the only singer today who incorporates an inhale of breath into the arrangement of a song.
The long and somewhat meandering “The Globalist” (though it picks up really well about halfway through before drifting off again) ended the main set as the title song and last track off Drones, another pre-recorded number, played during what amounted to a quasi encore as an inflatable spaceship flew around the arena. It certainly wasn’t a traditional encore (to that – much thanks) with the band members waving and thanking the crowd, rather they all just left the stage to the monk-like chanting, which serves primarily as the song before the band returned and played “Mercy” and finally ending the evening with a bit of old west flair on “Knights of Cydonia.”
Muse played six songs (not counting “Drones,” “JFK,” or “Drill Sergeant” which technically opened the show) off the new album, a solid collection though “Reapers” should have received the live treatment. However, considering Drones is a concept album and thus tells a story, shuffling the original track list and scattering past hits in between proved a bit ineffective and didn’t give the new album just flavor. Performing Drones sequentially in its entirety, and either dividing the setlist into two parts, separating new from old, or bookending the new songs with older material might prove more effective.
Even the graffiti spray during “Mercy” the fourth song on the album during the encore felt off. The song isn’t exactly a joyous number eliciting jumping and dancing something that often feels automatic with a shower of paper.
The band’s stage presence comes across rather introverted and once the first guitar chord is played it’s all business. Bellamy didn’t introduce one song, rarely addressed the crowd save for a couple of thanks and his prompting to get the audience working the chorus sections. In many respects though, it proved even keel with the album’s theme and Wolstenhome, so menacing, stalking around at well over six feet tall pounding those bass lines, looked every bit as intimidating as the guards who “announced” the start of the show.
The nuances aside, Muse played flawlessly with nary a mistake on the night. The new album takes a bit to grow on you but is a solid record despite its underlying dark overtones. (A weekly entertainment rag listed Drones in its Top 5 worst albums of the year last week. Um, that’s what you get when millennials control the editorial content.)
As always, the stage show, something to experience. Though not as extensive as the last tour with the choreography between their playing and the timing of the strobes and light flashes to the beat and melodies, the band relied more on visual aids with sheer curtains dropped from the ceiling throughout the set displaying projections and a permanent 360 degree display over the main stage.
*Did not include “Drones,” “JFK,” “Drill Sergeant,” or “Prelude” as part of the setlist.
Muse – Drones Tour Portland Setlist (Moda Center)
- Dead Inside
- Plug in Baby
- The 2nd Law: Isolated System
- The Handler
- Supermassive Black Hole
- United States of Eurasia
- Munich Jam
- Undisclosed Desires
- Time is Running Out
- The Globalist
- Knights of Cydonia