Concert Review: Muse @ The Air Canada Centre (ACC), Toronto, Canada
I have seen well over 100 bands in concert, and I’ve said for many years that Muse crack the top 3 of all-time for me. I first saw them in 2004 at a small side stage at the Molson Amphitheatre, mere months after they headlined the massive Glastonbury festival alongside Paul McCartney and Oasis. The amount of noise that the trio produce is quite astounding and they’re never short on theatrics.
Flash forward to 2013 – singer Matt Bellamy had a kid with actress Kate Hudson. The band have ‘cracked America’, and are now playing arena tours in North American for a second consecutive tour. Heck, they even added a second date to the ACC in Toronto after selling out the first one. Would their tour for The 2nd Law album live up to the heightened expectations? Read on to find out.
I was excited to hear Alt-J’s song Breezeblock during the set change, having just seen them in Toronto recently. It was fitting to have Alt-J (the command which makes a ∆ if you’re on a Mac) play beforehand, as Matt Bellamy had black triangles over his silvery glittery jacket that only a rock star could wear out in public.
The band had several rows of video screens and lights hovering above the stage, which moved around during the show. The band kicked things off with a recording of the lovely closer on the new album, The 2nd Law: Isolated System.
The first “real” song the band played was album opener, Supremacy, and you could tell the crowd were up for it. So was Bellamy, as he hit all the high pitched, squealing notes in the song’s unorthodox chorus. Christopher Wolstenholme had an illuminated bass, which looked like a lightsabre when the lights were dim. Behind the band were a semi-circle bank of video screens. Drummer Dominic Howard played on an elevated drum stage in the centre.
Map of the Problematique found Matt Bellamy running up the side platform to entertain the crowd, with the band rocking some Led Zeppelin riffs during the outro.
The lights and screens dropped for track 4, which was the thumping crowd favourite, Supermassive Black Hole. Muse kept the hits coming, playing Resistance next.
Panic Station, with its throwback bass line and vocal delivery, was well-received by the crowd. The video screens featured some dancing purple monsters, which conspiracy theorist and alien-lover Matt Bellamy probably believes exist somewhere.
If you wanted a harmonica solo, you got it, as the band played an extended harmonica intro and made some other interesting sounds that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the TV show Unsolved Mysteries. This gave way to the epic sounding Knights of Cydonia, which to me is a weird song to play in the middle of the set, if only because the crowd always goes SO ballastic, how can you not save it for an encore?
The newly minted “Monty Jam”, with its lengthy intro and radio transmission snippets led into Explorers. This slower track signaled a beer or bathroom break for many people around me (either that, or my farts finally got to them). The song was well executed, but still remains an average song at best.
The track that starts with the ultrasound heartbeat of Matt and Kate’s child – Follow Me – was up next. Muse continued to prove that lasers win over pretty much any crowd, as they shot across the Air Canada Centre. The song had a bass explosion during the chorus, which was extremely loud and extremely amazing.
The half comical, half brilliant United States of Eurasia was next, with Bellamy on the piano. As on previous tours, Bellamy played a piano with a clear top, with lights wired to the keys, lighting up the piano top as he plays each note. So much for faking it. The crescendo to end the song was both deafening and incredible in a live setting, with Bellamy’s vocals bordering on operatic and incredibly powerful.
The bassist popped up front for the next song. The drum stage started to slowly revolve, as Bellamy stood on there and took a leisurely spin as Wolstenholme sung Liquid State.
The best slow song Muse have ever done, Madness, followed. The track is arguably the best song on The 2nd Law, and was one of the best songs of 2012 (or so says some amazing blog). Not only did the screen display certain lyrics in the rainbow-font colours on the 2nd Law album cover, but the shades that Bellamy sported for the song also displayed them. Those shades must kill at house parties. The solo in the song really stood out for me, and the ending was also strong.
A short cover of Rush’s YYZ kicked off the older track, Time Is Running Out. The crowd sung the build up to the chorus at Bellamy’s request. The song flat out rocked, and the crowd loved it.
Bellamy got the crowd waving from side to side, before hopping down to the floor to greet some fans, as the band played Undisclosed Desires.
A roulette wheel gave fans the illusion of choice, as we had songs Stockholm Syndrome and New Born slotted in on the wheel. Since there was no piano on stage, the odds of New Born were slim, and Stockholm Syndrome somewhat predictably won out. Like Time Is Running Out, this classic older tune from the band is out and out a great rock track. The band loves playing it, and the crowd whipped their heads and bodies around as the band played it. This song rounded out the regular set for the band (although some people seem to think it was merely a gap in the set – to each their own).
Update: my notes had “Rage?” written as they jammed during the outro. The people at Setlist.fm note that they did in fact play Rage Against the Machine. As a hardcore Rage fan, I’m disappointed I didn’t stick to my guns, but I was a little shocked to randomly hear the song. Blame to beer.
The screens dropped down and the band kicked into the rock dubstep track, The 2nd Law: Unsustainable. Smoke blasted out of pipes at the front of the stage, causing the crowd to scream. If I were to guess what song my eardrums were blown in at this concert, this song would probably win that guess – it was loud. The divisive album track was greeted with cheers from the crowd, and sort of makes me wish all of the 2nd Law had songs this progressive.
The fist pumping favourite Uprising was next, with Bellamy throwing his guitar at the end of the song.
The band left the stage, and the crowd pulled out one smartphone after another, as the stage was dark. It was quite an amazing scene, as people had their phones flashing, creating a sea of bright and often flashing lights.
Law encore was the clap-friendly Starlight. The band ended with the official London 2012 Olympic Anthem, Survival, played in a city that lost several Olympic bids. Having been in London for the Olympics, let’s just say I’ve heard this song a lot.
The concert was loud, the stage set up was impressive, the hits kept coming, and the new songs translated well in a live setting. Bellamy’s voice was spot on, although he barely interacted with the crowd. I was (unfortunately) seated in the 100s, and would’ve loved to have been on the floor for what was an outstanding show. How Muse will continue to grow and amaze with their stage show is a good problem for a band to have going forward.
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PHM Rating for Muse: 9.0 out of 10
Setlist for Muse @ The Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Canada – April 9, 2013
Note: There was some debate to whether or not Encore 1 was actually an encore. Since I write the reviews, and the band disappeared for a small amount of time, I say yes. Deal with it!
1 – The 2nd Law: Isolated System
2 – Supremacy
3 – Map of the Problematique
4 – Supermassive Black Hole
5 – Resistance
6 – Panic Station
7 – Knights of Cydonia
8 – Explorers (with Monty Jam intro)
9 – Follow Me
10 – United States of Eurasia
11 – Liquid State
12 – Madness
13 – Time Is Running Out (YYZ intro)
14 – Undisclosed Desires
15 – Stockholm Syndrome
16 – The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
17 – Uprising
18 – Starlight
19 – Survival