Muse Bring Their Rockface to LA

Scenesters and Twilight fans filled the Staples Center on Friday night, when Muse performed in LA in support of their 2015 album, Drones. The spectacle began outside the stadium as huge lines of people waited and waited for the doors to open, which they finally did a half hour late, at 7:30. Things progressed a bit sluggishly as security stopped allowing people in after the first few hundred. It is not clear if this was because they wanted to keep the lines manageable at the concession and merch stands or because the stadium employees had not yet finished sweeping up the popcorn from whatever event may have preceded the concert.

The programming caught up before long. Openers Phantogram began their set at 8:30. The music of the electro-pop group from New York was almost as hypnotic as their strobe-heavy light show, which may have been an inexpensive way to try to make the band’s show big enough to justify its performance in the humongous venue. Regardless, the duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter energized the stadium with nine songs, which were principally from their 2014 album, Voices.

At around 10:00, several large inflatable balls adorned with lights and propellers took off from the rafters and began hovering around the stadium while a series of screens displayed phrases like “killed by drones” and “can you feel anything.” Before long, the band walked onstage and started the show with “Psycho” from the new album. Over the next hour and a half, Matthew Bellamy (vocals, guitars, piano), Christopher Wolstenholme (bass, backing vocals), and Dominic Howard (drums) zipped through their 21-song set comprised of a cross-section of their catalog.

The 360 degree stage design accommodated the trio’s reputation for giving highly energetic performances. Among the spectacles provided by the musicians themselves (apart from their impressive skills on their respective instruments) were Bellamy’s and Wolstenholme’s constant wandering (and Bellamy’s sprinting) around the circular center stage and over the catwalks which extended to the side stages. Added to this was Bellamy’s constant stream of rock poses and guitar faces.

Beyond that, the aforementioned floating “drones,” and a few other balloons and inflatable floaties, there were various colorful projections, and there were video screens — arranged in a circle above the circular center stage. Unfortunately, the screens were also sandwiched in between a series of hanging speakers, which obscured them from the view of people in various high-altitude seats (who, of course, would have most benefitted from them).

Generally speaking, the evening was one of high energy performances of pop-rock songs. There was some nice musical variety, including some piano playing and an extended vocal harmony at the end of “The Globalist” (the latter which actually occurred after the band had left the stage — so, technically, it may not have been performed live). Other highlights of the set included “Supermassive Black Hole,” “Madness,” “Plug In Baby,” “Starlight,” and “Uprising.” The double encore consisted of “Mercy,” and “Knights of Cydonia.” It seemed like the stage show was a bit underwhelming for a band with a reputation as strong as Muse’s, but then, the recent interactive stage shows by titans like Nine Inch Nails and U2 have set the bar fairly high for stadium entertainment. However, as long as Muse can fill 18,000 seats with screaming fans who give their hearts to the band the moment the balloons start floating around the room, why bother paying for extra bells and whistles?

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