Sunday, March 14, 2010

Muse at the United Center - March 12

My two-month long concert drought ended Friday night at the United Center (of all places), with a show I had very high hopes for Muse with Silversun Pickups at the United Center.

I had high hopes since Muse haven't played Chicago since Lollapalooza 2007, where they put on an incredible performance to a surprisingly large and appreciative audience. They've only released one new album since that time, last year's disappointing (for me anyways) "The Resistance," so at least they weren't making the rounds between albums just collecting a paycheck.

Of course, since the 2007 show, the band had become even more popular, because of some book called Twilight about sparkly vampires or something like that. Oh well, at least a good band is benefiting from the free promotion.

The show was opened by Silversun Pickups, a L.A. band that I've been a fan of for a few years now, but have only partially seen live once, catching the end of their set at Lollapalooza last year. They were largely being compared to the Smashing Pumpkins as they were breaking out 3 years ago, but their most recent album, "Swoon," and their live show do prove that the comparison is a bit too much.

The band were in good humor, playing through all of their expected songs, and even asking the two sides of the stadium to have a competition to see who could use their flashes from the cameras and phones more to make a big light show for them as they started their great "Swoon" track, "Panic Switch." They closed the set with their biggest near-hit to date, one of the best songs to play on Rock Band or Guitar Hero, "Lazy Eye," and got the crowd pretty well hyped for what was to follow.

The Pickups had apologized halfway through their set, since there were three large towers behind them on stage that block them from the back quarter of the stadium. It became clear as soon as Muse started what the purpose of these towers was. The three members of Muse each stood on a mini-stage halfway up each tower, with video screens covering the rest of the towers with interesting visuals.

They of course opened with their great song "Uprising," the first track off of "The Resistance," with its great driving bassline pulsing through the song, while the screens gave off images that were closer to a political rally than a rock concert. They followed with the title track from the newest album, and soon they revealed another trick and had their three mini-stages lower to the main stage for them to give more room to move throughout the show.

The rabid, loyal crowd loved every moment of the show, and were rewarded as the band of course delved into some of their past great material, especially from their great 2007 album, "Black Holes and Revelations." I knew we were looking at a great show, when around the fifth song, "Supermassive Black Hole," I looked at the guy controlling the video on the screens, and he was rocking out as much as anyone in the crowd. On almost any given tour, when you look at a member of the road crew, they usually look about as excited as someone working on their taxes. But even a guy who's been on the road with the band for a few dates was enjoying every minute of the music on the stage.

While wowing the crowd with the incredible visuals and nearly flawless performance, the band threw in some old classics ("Hysteria,""Helsinki Jam") while still placing their emphasis on the new album. Some of the new songs which drag a bit on the album came off impressively well live, such as the Queen influence "United States of Eurasia." They also brought an amazing laser show with them to back up all of the video, and it was used to fantastic effect on such songs as "Starlight."

After the incredible one-two punch of "Time is Running Out" and "Plug In Baby," the band took their first and only break of the night, after barely stopping for almost an hour and a half straight. They opened their encore with "Exogenesis: Symphony, Part 1, Overture," but then blasted the doors off the place with "Stockholm Syndrome," and wrapping everything up predictably, but no less perfectly, with the classic "Knights of Cydonia."

It's been a long time since I've been able to say this, but I know for certain that was one of the best concerts I have ever seen. It was easily in my top 10 ever, perhaps in my top 5, we'll see as I think about it more. I guess it's a pretty good sign when it's only March 14th, and I already may have seen the best concert of the year.

Muse is a world-class band at this point, no question about it, and they seem to be ready to take on the mantle of Biggest Band in the World at this point. Matthew Bellamy could be the guitar hero of his generation, and bass player Chris Wolstenholme provides the incredible backbone to most of the songs, with absolutely fantastic playing heard on songs like "Hysteria." Drummer Dominic Howard did a great job of tying everything together, and being the one member of the band who took the time to say "hello" and "thanks" to the crowd at least.

It's sad that it's probably going to be another 2 or 3 years before Muse is back here again, but I guess sometimes it's best to not want too much of a good thing. Or a great thing I guess.