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Music Monday – Muse

01/31/2011
Muse at Target Center

Muse at Target Center

I mentioned in previous Music Mondays that there were three major bands I went and saw in 2010: Thrice, Arcade Fire, and Muse. I’ve already talked about Thrice and Arcade Fire, and now it’s time to talk about Muse.

Muse is a difficult band to categorize, but the best I can do is an alternative rock band with hard rock tendencies, or as one of my friends put it once, “Radiohead if they had not gotten rid of the rock”. They are known for having arena rock type songs, similar to Queen, but with a level of “guitar-hero” playing that is reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave…I guess? Like I said, pretty hard to pin down.

My first exposuse to Muse was while listening to Drive 105, the old alternative station in the Twin Cities that eventually became the much hated Love105 (light “rock”, aka 40 year old mom music that’s business acceptable); first song I ever heard by them was “Time Is Running Out” off of the Absolution album, a song that is more typical of their alternative label than arena rock. Pretty good song, I enjoyed singing along to it. Roughly around this time I must have heard my favorite Muse song, “Hysteria”, because the guitar part got logged into my memory as being memorable and awesome, but for some reason I never considered picking up any of their albums. It wasn’t until 2006 when Muse released the song “Knights of Cydonia” that I was hooked and ran to Best Buy to pick up the corollating album, Black Holes and Revelations, and then quickly bought used copies of their previous albums. (Also, part of my immediate liking of “Knights of Cydonia”, besides hearing the song and being blown away by it on Drive 105, was seeing the music video on IMF (International Music Feed) at my friend’s house, the same channel that introduced me to Thrice a year or two previously.)

Muse at Target Center

Muse at Target Center

Muse’s most recent album, The Resistance, came out in 2009. My initial impressions of The Resistance was that it wasn’t as good as Black Holes and Revelations, with maybe one or two songs that caught me originally. However, during the many long and lonely bus rides from home to the campus, I was blessed to be able to spend more time with Muse’s The Resistance and grew to appreciate the album for it’s strengths and weaknesses; I don’t know if I’d consider it their best album, but it’s definitely good, and is very much a grower, one that I’ve appreciated immensely in the past year or so. (The bus rides weren’t that bad; it allowed me to schedule 2 hours each day for listening to music, podcasting, prayer, or whatever else I tend to put off when I have ready alternatives available. Commuting by car, especially one without a dedicated audio jack for my iPhone, is just not the same.)

 

I knew Muse was coming to play the Target Center in Minneapolis from the moment they announced it, but for some reason it never occured to me to purchase tickets. But one day while sitting in the student center of the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota doing homework before class, it occurred to me that as much as I was listening to Muse lately and how much the band had meant to me in the previous year or so (they functioned as a form of musical therapy during a very dark period in the past few years, similar to how U2 has been for me, but obviously different) that I really should go to the Muse show at the Target Center. Muse had been opening for U2 the previous year so many of my friends had seen them on the U2 360 stage, and I had caught a few YouTube clips from those shows, plus Muse brought the Edge on stage to play “Where the Streets Have No Name” with them at Glastonbury the previous summer, so…

So right then and there, two weeks or so before the concert, I purchased two tickets to see Muse at the Target Center. I purchased two because as much as I have enjoyed going to see bands by myself, I really wanted to go with a friend, and knew of one or two who were also Muse fans that would be interested in going (and who were also ladies). Unfortunately, schedules weren’t permitting for any of the ladies I asked to go with (as friends; one of the views of fundamentalism I’ve been working on kicking off is that it is inappropriate and wrong for a single man and a single woman to hang out and be friends, something that I’ve never had a problem with when it comes to my unsaved female friends but somehow always becomes a bigger than Jesus, friendship destroying issue with Christian females.), so I eventually asked my good friend David whom I graduated high school with to go with me. Even though he only knew a handful of songs, he nonetheless was blown away and loved the show. Speechless, even…

Muse

Muse

Here’s the setlist Muse played at the Target Center on October 5 –

    1. Exogenesis: Symphony, Part 1: Overture
    2. Uprising
    3. Knights of Cydonia
    4. Supermassive Black Hole
    5. HysteriaStar-Spangled Banner + Interlude intro + 2 outro riffs
    6. Guiding Light
    7. Nishe
    8. United States Of Eurasia
    9. Feeling Good
    10. MK Jam
    11. Undisclosed Desires
    12. Resistance
    13. Starlight
    14. Time Is Running Out/House of the Rising Sun intro
    15. Stockholm Syndrome
    16. Encore:
    17. Plug In Baby Play
    18. Take A Bow

Reviews of the gig by the Muse fan community said that while they felt the show was shorter than most Muse shows, there was however a much more solid diversity of songs than most Muse shows. In fact, during the show, Muse’s drummer, Dominic Howard, was chatting with the crowd between songs, and remarked back and forth with Matt Bellamy, Muse’s front man and guitarist, that Minneapolis and specifically the Target Center was the first show and venue Muse played in America, way back in 2001 when opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters. That’s pretty cool. Another highlight of the show is that while Muse didn’t play one of their early crowd favorites “Bliss”, Matt Bellamy nonetheless teased the song on piano before playing the scheduled “Feeling Good”, so that was a nice little tease. Also, the unreleased instrumental song “MK Jam” has been said is the best available recording from any performance, and “Take A Bow” gets listed as best performance of the tour as well.

Why do I love Muse? We must first start with the guitar. The two things that hooked me on Muse were the opening guitar part on “Hysteria” and the ending section following the bridge on “Knights of Cydonia”. Both feature a fresh, raw, driven sound that I had never heard before. Both captivated me, and are on my list of songs that make me want to learn to play guitar.

Matt Bellamy can play really well, knows it, and shows it off. He has a habit of allowing his guitar solos to run wild so that it appears to be barely contained chaos and yet you know he is in complete control. Add to that a healthy dose of British swagger and enough attitude to back it off, and you have Matt Bellamy. His bandmates, Dominic Howard and Chris Wolstenholme (bass), each bring their own unique flairs to the performance, with Dominic acting as the non-musical link to the crowd, and Chris being the stoic straight man who rips out the bass lines with ease, yet still knows how to head bang despite always shaving his head.

Lyrically Muse are often in a darker place than I’m used to, but marries it with bombastic bravo and catchy hooks, coupled with a deep appreciation of all things science, science fiction, and conspiracy theorist, with probably more than a touch of atheism. Don’t know why, but it works for me. This lyric in particular spoke to me this past summer and provided much needed emotional carthesis:

Change everything you are
And everything you were
Your number has been called
Fights and battles have begun
Revenge will surely come
Your hard times are ahead

Best,
You’ve got to be the best
You’ve got to change the world
And use this chance to be heard
Your time is now

It should be noted and defend against that old fundamentalist barb that I don’t listen to Muse for the lyrics. Sure, I like most of them, and enjoy singing along with them, mainly because of the tune and harmonies, but I’m not looking at them for meanings of life. I grew up regarding the Bible as TRUTH, and it’s never dawned on me once, growing up or currently, to look elsewhere for meanings and how to live my live. I listen to Muse primarily for the music, of which vocals are only a part, but mainly for the guitars; and no, I’m not then going to listen to Muse “instrumentally”. Grow up and shut up.

And with that said…on to the music!

First up, a great performance by Muse of “Hysteria” from Glastonbury 2010, a performance similar to what was later performed at the Target Center in Minneapolis…easily my favorite Muse song.

The song that cemented my appreciation for live Muse, and especially for Matt Bellamy and his crazy awesome guitar playing…New Born, presented here live from Wembley in 2007.

Another song that blew me away on Black Holes and Revelations, “Map of the Problematique”…

A little slower song, Muse doing a cover of “Feeling Good”…I’m not gonna lie, the “darkness” coming out of the video as compared to what is a relatively positive song is part of the reason why I like it so much…but the megaphone is a touch of brilliance. And part of the reason I like this song is because I played The Saboteur on Xbox 360 over the summer, and the original version was used often, so I associate more to this song than just Muse; it is the French Resistance to me.

And finally, if I was able to play guitar, and I was in a band, and we wanted to do a Muse cover…as many great songs as they have, this is the one I think I would want to cover. I love the dynamics to this song and the inevitable raging guitar solo…plus, at least in the car, I can hit all of the high notes. “Citizen Erased” off of Origin of Symmetry.

For one moment
I wish you’d hold your stage
With no feelings at all
Open minded
I’m sure I used to be so free

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