Muse brought their ‘Simulation Theory’ tour to Montreal last night to a close to sold out crowd (it looked sold out, but the Bell Centre marquee said ‘tickets available’ so what do I know). The British trio seems to be at their creative peak, and it was obvious we’d be in for quite a night. Unsurprisingly, Muse lived up to my lofty expectations.
Launching the evening was Cincinnati’s ‘Walk the Moon’, whose alt-rock/pop hybrid was a good choice to open. The first half of their 45 minute set was met didn’t seem to set get the crowd going that much, but the second half was more spirited and was met with a much more enthusiastic response. The highlight came with their catchy 2014 hit “Shut Up and Dance”, before ending their set with “Headphones” along with a bit of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir” for good measure.
Muse were fashionably late (and the show even ended after the usual 11PM venue curfew), but once they started, it was a wall-to-wall extravaganza that was a feast for the eyes and the ears. Drawing inspiration from the cover of “Simulation Theory”, the stage was perpetually bathed in neon colours (mostly pink and aqua), with lighting effects extending into the arena’s lower bowl. The stage had a ramp up to center ice, and from above it looked like a spaceship from a retro video game, or a Klingon Bird of Prey from Star Trek. The whole aesthetic of this album and tour is inspired by the 80’s, and it’s no coincidence if you got vibes from movies like “Tron” or ‘Last Starfighter” or even ‘Aliens’ and “Terminator” from the show.
Their latest album got the lion’s share of the setlist, and there was plenty of great material to fill in the rest. An effort was made to focus on the more electronic material to keep up with the theme, up until the last song of the night, “Knights of Cydonia”, along with its “Man with the Harmonica” intro. After nearly two hours of cold dazzling lights, cyborgs and giant alien bodies (taking a page from Iron Maiden’s book and going next level), the message was clear: it’s our humanity that will set us apart from machines.
No one’s going to take me alive“Knights of Cydonia” – Muse
Time has come to make things right
You and I must fight for our rights
You and I must fight to survive
Musically, the trio of Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard (with help from Morgan Nicholls on keys/guitars) was perfect from the first note to the last. The band has so much good material that it went from one hit to another and never let up. Visually, the show isn’t as ground breaking as their last tour was, but it still ranks as one of the most impressive arena shows of the last decade. Like a good 80’s video, the visuals don’t always make sense in the context of the song’s lyrics, but they sure look good.