Muse - Madison Square Garden - 4/15/13
Better Than: The last two times I've seen the band perform live.
With similar amounts of conviction, Muse can weave between whimsical space rockers to heavy metal gods to frenzied, late-'90's alt rockers that dabble in soft doses of dubstep. The transitions are so subtle sometimes that, upon reflection, the idea of all these fighting genres coexisting in such a neatly presented package seems insane. But maybe Muse are kind of insane.
With lead singer Matthew Bellamy's piercing, Freddie Mercury quality falsetto leading the charge, Muse kept their performance theatrical and provocative during the first of two MSG performances this week. It was a more comfortable stage presence than I've seen the group display in the past; rather than relying on perfectly timed strobe lights and visual elements, the special effects actually felt just as they should: special. Bellamy's confident, '80's hair metal-level strut was a particularly assertive move that kept the use of the screens surrounding the stage and tiered pyramid of even more screens, that would showcase futuristic, sci-fi clips whenever the pyramid was lowered to the center of the stage, from becoming an overwhelming presence.
"Supremacy" the opening track from 2012's The 2nd Law gave the show a heavy start with the nasty crunch of the single's guitar riff and its general grandiosity kicking off the night ahead. Hits like "Supermassive Black Hole," "Knights of Cydonia," and "Stockholm Syndrome" were played enthusiastically by the band and heavily danced to by a crowd that seemed to refuse to sit for even a second. Throughout, spurts of Americana were fused into intros and outro, including a Jimi-style "Star-Spangled Banner" before "Panic Station" and later a blazing rendition of "House of the Rising Sun" that forced the stadium to sing along.
The musical precision with which Muse perform live meant there wasn't much difference between the songs played before our eyes and ears at MSG and the versions on their album, and that lacked a bit of rawness. But it did fit nicely into their slick, Matrix theme.