Muse took the stage at the Bell Centre for the last show of its two night stand in Montreal last night. When tickets went on sale last fall, a computer glitch in the promoter’s ticketing system left hundreds of concert goers without a ticket (myself included) when the show sold out in less than an hour. Thankfully, a second show was later added. While this second show wasn’t entirely sold out, it was still pretty packed, a testimonial to Muse’s popularity. (Despite this, I’ve never seen an arena band move so little merchandise. The merch tables were almost deserted, rendering useless the VIP lines for people who’d purchased special packages.)
Opening act Dead Sara from Los Angeles was a late recent replacement for Biffy Clyro, who had to drop out of the tour due to singer Simon Neil’s health issues. Their punkish rock didn’t seem like the best of fit with the headliners, but lead singer Emily Armstrong’s spirited performance and at times soulful vocals went over well with the crowd. The material seemed to switch between two extremes: screaming punk and quiet vocal showcase, which I found a little strange, but still, with better arrangements, they could be interesting. I’ve added their Soundcloud player after the article, and must admit that I appreciate the songs better than I did at the concert.
There seems to be as many descriptions of Muse’s music as there are reviewers. While initially dismissed as a Radiohead clone, the band incorporates elements of pop, rock, metal, prog rock and electronica to create a sound that’s familiar yet unique. I think you can say that there’s a little for everyone in Muse. The band has shied away from the prog rock label, but they shouldn’t; they’ve taken all that was good about prog and stripped away all the excesses the genre often veers towards.
At 8:30 sharp, the house lights went down and Muse took the stage. For the next 1:45, they wasted no time and presented song after song with little time wasted on chatting or any empty artifice. In fact, if it weren’t for a very brief drum/bass solo (at least they combined the two!), they would have avoided all 7 rock concerts clichés!
The stage was flanked by a semi circular strip of video screens that provided the visuals along with a descending structure that also acted as a projection surface. While very simple in concept, this offered a very impressive backdrop for the music. The three musicians (joined by a touring keyboard player) were note perfect throughout the night, navigating with ease through all the different textures in their music. After setting the mood with The 2nd Law: Unsustainable from their latest album, the band kicked the show into high gear with the James Bond-esque Supremacy, which set the pace for the show. The followed with the funky Panic Station (a highlight of the show) and went on to play tracks from all 6 of their albums.
The setlist managed to cover most of their hits, along with their amazing cover of Feeling Good, snippets of ACDC’s Back in Black and a splendid version of Ennio Morricone’s Man with the Harmonica, from the movie Once Upon a Time in the West. The show ended on a high note with their biggest hit Uprising, which got the Bell Centre crowd back on their feet with its Doctor Who-esque synth lines, and drum beat reminiscent of The KLF’s Doctoring the Tardis. After a quick break, they came back for Starlight and Survival. I found the set to be the perfect length: long enough to cover a lot of songs, but just short enough to leave you wanting more. Kudos to them for not wasting stage time: it was all about the music! A great evening with a band whose popularity seems to be skyrocketing. Could they be this generation’s U2?
- The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
- Panic Station
- Supermassive Black Hole
- Plug In Baby
- (AC/DC’s Back in Black doodling)
- Knights of Cydonia
- Man with a Harmonica
- Feeling Good
- Follow Me
- Liquid State
- Time Is Running Out
- (House of the Rising Sun intro)
- Undisclosed Desires
- Micro Cuts
- The 2nd Law: Isolated System
- Sorry for It All
- Lemon Scent
- Face to Face
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He's also a regular contributor at the very rad site Montreal Rampage