Concert review: Muse – Bell Centre, Montreal – January 20th 2016

All the naysayers that claim that arena rock is dying have most likely never seen Muse in concert. One would think that a trio (made into a quartet with the addition of touring keyboardist/guitarist Morgan Nicholls) would be lost in an in the round setup that also extended to both ends of the floor, but the band made the most of it, supported by simple yet amazingly impressive lighting and projections. The show’s visuals, designed by Montreal’s Moment Factory, elegantly framed the band’s music through all its twists and turns.

The show started with N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” piped through the PA while the band made its way to the stage. With huge drones flying around the Bell Centre, the band launched right into “Psycho” from their latest album “Drones”. Singer/guitarist Matthew Bellamy used the huge stage throughout the evening, walking back and forth across its whole length, stopping at microphones strategically placed along the way. Their latest album understandably occupied a sizeable percentage of the setlist, which mostly drew good reactions from the sold out crowd, but it’s their classic hits that elicited the biggest cheers.

Throughout the concert, the middle part of the stage would spin around, allowing drummer Dominic Howard to face different parts of the arena. Screens on top of the stage would show the band members or various imagery that played up the songs’ undertones of sci-fi and modern day cynicism. One of the most impressive moments came when Bellamy and bassist Christopher Wolstenholme became string puppets, with the interactive display tracking their movements.

A grand piano popped up from beneath the stage at one extremity whenever needed, but Bellamy’s guitar was the focus most of the time. A modern-day kind of guitar hero, his style blends influences like Tom Morello, Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix as he goes from crushing chords to frantic leads, to the great pleasure of the crowd. The musicianship was of course impeccable throughout the show, and the songs lost none of the nuances they have on album.

The show culminated on the ten-minute tour de force “The Globalist”, with its Ennio Morricone inspired first part (if anyone doubted the Italian maestro’s influence, Muse made it clear later when they introduced the final song “Knights of Cydonia” with a spectacular version of “The Man With the Harmonica”). A puzzling omission from the setlist was “Supremacy”, but with such a catalog, it’s inevitable that some favourites will have to be skipped from time to time.

With such a visually impressive concert and high level of musicianship, Muse is more and more making a case to be the Pink Floyd for this generation. Arena rock is alive and well, and in good hands with bands like this.

Opening was X-Ambassadors, who did a great job warming the crowd and seemed quite at ease on the huge stage.

  • Psycho
  • Dead Inside
  • Interlude
  • Hysteria
  • Bliss
  • The 2nd Law: Isolated System
  • The Handler
  • Map of the Problematique
  • Supermassive Black Hole
  • Prelude
  • Starlight
  • Apocalypse Please
  • Munich Jam
  • Madness
  • Undisclosed Desires
  • [JFK]
  • Reapers
  • Time Is Running Out
  • Uprising
  • The Globalist
  • Mercy
  • Knights of Cydonia
Jean-Frederic Vachon
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