I was lucky enough to attend the double bill of Razorlight and Muse on April 12 in Halton Arena on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This show was presented by MTV U as part of their “Campus Invasion” series. My first exposure to Muse was one of their videos on MTV2. I remember my first thought being, “does Radiohead have a new video out?” I love Radiohead. I listened to OK Computer for two days and went out and bought everything they had done to date. Muse is better than Radiohead (based on what I experienced last night). It’s okay. Let that sink in.
I didn’t know much about Muse. I didn’t know their names. I didn’t know where they were from. I had only listened to snippets of their latest release a couple of months prior to the show. I don’t know if this diminished my expectations of the show making it seem that much better, but that doesn’t matter because they crushed any pessimism I may have had 20 seconds into their set. I have been to many concerts ranging from local bands that learned how to play their instruments the night before to, say, Paul McCartney and David Bowie. With the exception of the Darkness this was probably the first time I have experienced a show wherein my predominant emotional and mental state for 90 minutes was a mix of absolute enjoyment and utter disbelief. I literally found myself staring at the stage mouth agape and thinking that I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the world right now.
Matt Bellamy is the front man of Muse responsible for lead vocals, guitar, and keyboard. Chris Wolstenhome is the bassist, and the trio is rounded out by their drummer Dominic Howard. The students of UNC Charlotte in attendance made a very wise decision in being there last night. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help thinking that a large portion of the audience didn’t deserve the performance with which they were being treated. This perspective comes from my observation that the applause was not worthy of what it was appreciating in that arena. This comes, in part, from my own arrogance in knowing when I am witness to an amazing performance. Muse were collectively playing their hearts out. It was, in every sense, three masters of their instruments belting out beautiful, passionate, harmonious songs and doing it with the tightness of a veteran touring band in their prime. They were filling my soul with music and smiling while doing it. I know that I am coming across corny to say the least, but find a true music fan who was there, and ask them to refute what I am expressing.
The overall structure of the show was on the money. They started with upbeat, driving selections such as “Apocalypse Please” and “Hysteria” to let everyone know they meant business. They then slowed it down some to let everyone catch their breath using a couple new and old tracks marked by haunting Beethoven-esque melodies on a keyboard that prompted a wonderfully entertaining, yet, nearly seizure inducing light show. The home stretch included “Time is Running Out” and the long version of “Bliss” to cement and write in blood that Muse owns North Carolina tonight. The encore “Stockholm Syndrome” was the explosion of a crescendo that had been building and subsiding all night under insane talent for musicianship and song writing that could not be denied, complete with confetti balloons. One other thing that made the show so enjoyable was an aspect that fit me perfectly: They never stopped bringing “the Rock.” Plain and simple, Muse was outstanding.