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OC Register: Muse's new spectacle electrifies at Honda Center


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Great review :D




All this time spent looking for the next U2, and all along I figured it could only be either Coldplay or the Killers. Who else seems capable of blending soaring appealing anthems with massive spectacles that can consistently get people of all ages buying concert tickets by the millions?


Well, here comes Muse to steal away the crown.


In a galvanizing performance Thursday night before a full house at Honda Center in Anaheim -- its first major Orange County appearance and second stateside date on a new American tour -- the British trio came on like a titan exploding onto the international stage, fully formed and widely embraced. Setting aside one-of-a-kind phenomena like Radiohead and Pearl Jam and Green Day -- all forebears chronologically, anyway -- no band I’ve seen in decades has delivered so stunningly that you just know it will only play arenas in the future by choice; its agents and accountants will prefer they stay in stadiums.


Muse was so confident, so controlled yet dynamically unhinged as needed, that the group made Coldplay’s strongest nights seem as rousingly simple as a Shakira singalong. The crowd responded like they’d been rooting for this possible future for years -- which to some degree they have. The band’s career arc couldn’t be more U2-like; its fifth album, The Resistance, may feel more like an Unforgettable Fire than a Joshua Tree, yet there’s no denying that, just as Bono and the boys did with those two albums, Muse’s latest and its predecessor, Black Holes and Revelations, have rallied the masses like rarely before -- like Depeche Mode, to name another exception, managed as it leapt from Music for the Masses to Violator.


In other words, Muse, a machine that two weeks ago played two shows at Wembley Stadium -- you know, the place where they held Live Aid -- has launched its latest leg of touring having not just cracked but already conquered America. They’ve sold out a run of four shows throughout Southern California this week, starting Wednesday in San Diego and concluding with back-to-back sold-out replays this weekend at Staples Center; let’s see the Killers do the same in this economy. Estimating 15,000 fans a night, a guess likely on the low end, that’s 60,000 tickets sold -- or slightly more people than they would have played to in one night at Angel Stadium.


Sure, that doesn’t mean these guys are as omnipresent as Lady Gaga or Katy Perry right now, but for techie geeks making art-rock they’re remarkably close; bet you’ve heard ’em even if you can’t name ’em. Thanks to myriad multimedia means that have made, for starters, the glittering yearning of “Starlight” as instantly recognizable as Coldplay’s “Clocks,” even to people who say they never listen to new music, Muse’s reputation seems to have grown another hundredfold in the months since its spectacular appearance at Coachella in mid-April.


That success has sucked in a mainstream crowd that only knows what’s on 104.3 My FM and Twilight soundtracks, along with the supposedly cooler kids of every age still listening to KROQ. (Overheard dialogue from two teenage girls: “I bet I’m gonna become a Muse junkie after this.” “Yeah, especially ’cause it’s your first concert.”) But add that audience, widening weekly, to a long-developing army of die-hards convinced of the band’s merits since at least 2003’s Absolution, and now you’ve really got something much more than a cult sensation.


Such slow-to-rise success is owed in part to those devoted fans, the ones who fell early for Muse’s unapologetically bombastic amalgam, forgiving the trio for ripping off Radiohead so redolently while loving the way they proudly wear influences -- Queen is another biggie -- all over their silver lamé jacket and glam slacks. (At least that’s what Matthew Bellamy wore Thursday night, with his usual black-and-white American flag T-shirt underneath. Bassist Christopher Wolstenholme wore his best striped Beetlejuice suit, while drummer Dominic Howard stayed subdued -- dark and satiny yet functional.)


It was those original fans who rightly recognized this lot’s hyper-skilled musicianship -- particularly Bellamy, a lightning-fasts virtuoso who excels at melding traditionalism (he loves to tack on classic-rock codas and classical motifs) with modern innovation; he’s one of few guitarists worthy of mentioning in the same breath as Brian May, and his piano work isn’t so shabby either. Then there’s his voice, capable of effortlessly scaling operatic heights without losing stamina along the way. He’s been illustrating as much all along, while simultaneously establishing a finely honed interplay with Wolstenholme and Howard that is now unerringly instinctive.


People who dig that sort of thing can never shut up about it, especially when they also can talk up Muse’s visual game -- which, on the basis of first Coachella and now this superior indoor spectacle, is on par with the very best still trying, including U2. Combine such word-of-mouth enthusiasm with heavy-rotation airplay, and suddenly a group like this becomes all anyone can talk about at the office.


I’d be dumbfounded to learn that any fans -- new or old, casual or committed -- came away from Thursday night’s show less than wowed. I suspect no two people will be talking about the same things, however.


Some can probably do 30 minutes alone on the production’s extravagances, which don’t arrive one by one to savor, they tidal-wave in all at once. Here come a dozen giant eyeball balloons filled with confetti (at the start of “Plug In Baby”), while Bellamy on a glowing keytar (or pounding keys that lit up the inside of his piano), Howard at a spinning kit and Wolstenholme in his … well, he mainly just kills on bass … then elevate them on illuminated platforms high enough to place each player in the center of his own skyscraper, as if he has rented several floors as a rehearsal space.


Enveloping the entire arena were massive green lasers. Across the skyscrapers’ top and bottom portions scrolled sensory-obliterating sights: random computer data for a version of “Resistance” worthy of the closing chase in a Jason Bourne flick; a sea of Facebook-size mug shots for the instrumental “Nishe,” leading into the crescendos of “United States of Eurasia”; a cascade of falling silhouetted bodies more than once (common imagery for a band seemingly obsessed with end-times emotions; a slowly filling tank of water for “Time Is Running Out”; plenty of acid-blot explosions of color laced over close-ups of the band.


It’s all overwhelming -- yet it never overwhelms the music. It does exactly what it should: perfectly enhances cinematic, almost apocalyptic mini-epics that had been screaming for such glorious pomposity long before people caught on. Which is why those of us still more about the music than the majesty of Muse should be pleased: Bellamy’s wicked riffing, Wolstenholme’s nimbly funky bass lines, and drumming by Howard as precise and powerful as Larry Mullen Jr.’s never took a backseat to the flood of visual pleasures.


That’s not to say someday it won’t; U2, which once got swallowed up by its own PopMart grandiosity, still doesn’t know when to hold back, either. But I get the feeling 20 years on from its fifth album, Muse, like those envelope-pushing Irishmen, will still be trying to step up to another level -- because there will still be an enormous audience out there who can’t wait to see them surprise all over again.


As for opening act Passion Pit's highly engaging 40-minute set, it's all the more an accomplishment that the Boston quintet's energetic performance seemed to win over a crowd amped for a Big Rock Show, considering that this is essentially a synth-pop dance band bolstered by Michael Angelakos' effeminate falsetto melodies. As with recent turns from Phoenix (which Passion Pit most closely resembles) and, to a lesser degree, outfits like Hot Chip and La Roux, the hybrid that banged out a half-dozen infectious jams here primarily was further proof that the lines between electro and organic are more blurred than ever -- and excitingly so.

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EDIT: Here's another one: http://blogs.ocweekly.com/heardmentality/lastnight/muse-at-the-honda-center-last/


Besides their headlining appearance at Coachella, Muse hasn't stopped nearby Orange County since their sold out at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater back in 2007. A completely sold out Honda Center enthusiastically welcomed back the band as they conclude their tour behind the album, The Resistance.


Three looming towers created a skyline inside the Honda Center as each band member was perched in the center. A laser beam shot through the floor next to lead singer and guitarist Matt Bellamy who used a mirror to reflect the laser back into the crowd as the band started to play "Uprising."


Grabbing a custom made Manson double neck guitar, Bellamy tore into the riff of "Resistance" as the visuals projected on the towers assaulted your senses in combination with the driving distorted bass of Christopher Wolstenholme and pummeling drums of Dominic Howard. Muse's attack on the audience was unrelenting with a blistering rendition of "New Born" ending with Bellamy chugging out a few bars of "Head Up" by the Deftones.


The panic inducing bass line of "Hysteria" whipped the crowd into a frenzy as three inebriated dudes in front of me tried to start a mosh pit at the back of the floor. It is difficult not to hear a tinge of Queen during "United States of Eurasia" as Bellamy displayed his virtuoso skills on the piano and sky high falsetto.


Staying behind the piano for "Feeling Good," Bellamy grabbed a megaphone for some distorted vocals during a verse. Only a band as big as Muse could get away with using a keytar for "Undisclosed Desires." Teasing the crowd with a few notes from Weezer's "My Name Is Jonas," the crowd feverishly clapped along to "Starlight."


Crystalline guitars of "Plug In Baby" melted into total bombast with the pit bouncing along. Bellamy crouched over his guitar to pull out the screaming notes of "Unnatural Selection". It seemed like it was mere minutes when they exited the stage for a breather. Sealing the deal on an amazing show was their strategic use of visuals from the Galaga arcade game during a blistering version of "Stockholm Syndrome." Wolstenholme pulled out the harmonica for the intro of "Knights of Cydonia" that put the final wraps on an exhilarating show.


Passion Pit relied on a synthesizer heavy barrage to engage the Muse fans. Michael Angelako's impressive falsetto managed to get some of the crowd moving especially during "Sleepyhead." It seems almost unfair that any band should open for Muse, but Passion Pit definitely gave it their all.


Personal Bias: I bought a Korg Kaoss pad to try and emulate the bizarre effects built into Matt Bellamy's guitars.


Crowd: I have friends that barely like music concerts actually attended this show. Muse's appeal is definitely far reaching and continues to grow.


Overheard in the Crowd: "Let me pop that eye!" was screamed by a concert goer who was trying to puncture a giant eye balloon that fell from the ceiling during "Plug In Baby."


Random Notebook Dump: Every single seat was sold in the Honda Center. Even those that were directly behind the band.


Muse dedicated "Starlight" to a couple who got engaged at the show.

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Wow, that's one of the more thorough and well-written reviews I've seen recently. That was a great read for both the Muse fan (which is biased) in me and the newspaperwoman (which is unbiased).:D


I know someone who works at the OC Register now who "fucking hates" Muse ... I hope he had to look at that story. Though now that he never has to hear from me and my obsessive ramblings anymore maybe he doesn't have it out for Muse so much.:facepalm:


My newspaper, oth, probably wouldn't notice Muse if they came and played right in our newsroom. And they could. We've got a lot of empty desks we could just clear to the side.

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I’d be dumbfounded to learn that any fans -- new or old, casual or committed -- came away from Thursday night’s show less than wowed.


This bit made me giggle. This reviewer has obviously never spent any time on Muse.mu! :chuckle:


These reviewers are obviously very very impressed! :D

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