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Muse: Live in Edmonton

Tonight (March 29, 2010), the famous alternative rock band Muse came to Edmonton. They performed at Rexall Place with the opening act being Silversun Pickups. Luckily for me, I managed to get a hold of a floor ticket the day before the concert. I managed to make it a distance of about ten people from the front. Though I’m not a regular listener of Muse (or Silversun Pickups), I found myself having a great time at the concert.


Silversun Pickups (rating: B)

At about 7 PM, Silversun Pickups hit the stage. Their performance overall was rather standard. The sound was decent, and there were no major malfunctions (technical or performance-wise). My only issue was that the whole band did not seem to give their full effort. But there was much energy from the frontman. He was able to communicate with the crowd very well and had a natural stage presence during his performance. The drummer was also very enthusiastic, though I thought the simplicity of his kit (as well as the six-foot high cymbal) made him look rather foolish. But he did give forth much effort and I commend him for that. On the other hand, the keyboardist did not seem to be doing much and it felt as though he was just along for the ride. The bassist was very dull. She seemed as though she was completely bored from playing the simplest of basslines (which easily could have been true). The overall performance had its hits and misses.

Silversun Pickups

After the band’s performance, I did not become a fan of them. It’s not that I hated the performance, but the music just does not seem to offer enough for me to engage myself with. All the band members are not technically proficient enough for my standards, nor are they musically creative enough. But this is just my opinion.

They put on a great show with the tools they had to work with. Any loyal fan of Silversun Pickups would have had a wonderful hour. Personally, I had merely a decent hour. The main stage left a much greater impression on me.

Muse (rating: A-)

There was a painful half hour wait between the opening and main act, but it was well worth it. Muse came on the stage at about 8:30 PM, and with a long, graphically aesthetic introduction (with buildings and white shadows), the band hit the stage with their hit, “Uprising”. The band played on elevated platforms (which they later came down from), and frontman Matthew Bellamy was wearing fancy “Kanye West” shades, which he tossed into the crowd to make for a nice souvenir. It was a well-presented introduction.

The crowd was out of control for the first half hour, but it died down considerably. This could have been due to the performances of less popular (but not worse) songs, and less “danceability” with these songs. Being on the floor, this was to my liking because I spent much more effort trying to stay on my feet than appreciating the music. But the amount of excitement the crowd was showing is a good thing.

The song choice was well spread out within the Muse collection. There were popular hits, band favorites, new songs, and less famous ones, all ranging from fast-paced rockers to slower ballads. My only issue with the setlist was that some of their more popular hits, which they are ultimately required to play, are my least favorite songs. I’m not a devout Muse fan, so I would not be able to name every song played at the show. But some of them include “Uprising,” “Supermassive Black Hole,” “Hysteria,” and “Starlight,” along with encore performances of “Stockholm Syndrome” and “Knights of Cydonia”. There are many songs that I hadn’t formerly heard played throughout; most of them were very enjoyable. Again, this whole “hit or miss” aspect is opinion-based, and though most were hits for me, there were undoubtedly some misses. On average, it was a great setlist.

Matthew Bellamy

Despite my high standards, I found that Muse showed themselves to be quite instrumentally impressive. Matthew Bellamy‘s guitar skills are clearly not virtuoso-like, but he does extremely well with his talent. The same can be said about his piano performance. But his vocals excel high above the norm. From what I could hear, he was spot-on throughout the night. He also displays quality control and a decent range. Of course there are better singers, but he is no doubt very talented in this department. The drummer, Dominic Howard, was also quite impressive. He is a standout musician in the mainstream scene, with a collection of many interesting and impressive rhythms. Christopher Wolsternholme gives some great basslines; he is a fantastic bassist, especially within the mainstream rock scene. All the band members had proven themselves to be very good, but there are no doubt others better in each category. Still, they do commendably well with their skills.

For me, the band’s showmanship was the best part of the concert. Each member gave an all-out performance. Whether they be dancing on stage or focusing on their performance, the band would be filled with passion and liveliness. They’d also build off of the crowd’s intensity with such moments as the well-deserved bass-drums duet and the unexpected performance of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” riff.

But even more, the band was able to show-off a tremendous visual display. The intro with the white shadows and the building was enough itself to get the crowd riled up. But there were beautiful visuals on the numerous screens spread across the three pillars on stage. Also, there was a good mixture of spotlighting and lasers, and a awe-inspiring use of smoke machines and massive eyeball balloons (in the crowd). There was a lot of eye candy to be appreciated in the show.

The night was very well done by the band. The strengths include the band’s musical talent, their performance skills, the overall sound, and the flashy visual effects. On the other hand, their shortcomings include the few misses in their song choice, their “not so amazing” opening act, and the rare failed attempts by Bellamy to impress the crowd with his skills (including the screeching feedback segment, which was painful for the ears). But as you can see, the highlights heavily outweigh the downfalls. It was a stellar concert, and even though I likely would not attend their next concert should they return, I’m certain there are thousands of Edmontonians who would love the opportunity to support their beloved Muse.

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