Ever sense listening to "Stockholm Syndrome" for the first time a few years ago I've been telling anyone who would listen that Muse is easily one of the best rock bands on the planet. Their show at Webster Hall during the Absolution tour ranked as one of the top three shows I went to in ‘04, and the album was filled with epic classics ("T.S.P.", “Apocalypse Please”, "Hysteria", etc.).
But, I was a little worried about this show after listening to their latest album "Blackholes & Revelations". After a couple of listens the new tunes struck me as mostly overblown & melodramatic even for Muse. Even the title of the first single is redundant (“Supermassive Blackhole”) and “Knights of Caledonia” is so overblown with its horse noises and studio effects even now I wonder if it’s some kind of supermassive joke.
Fortunately, Muse is still phenomenal live. This time the band had a stage backdrop to match the epic scale of their songs - a high-voltage electro laser multimedia freak-out perfect for newer songs like “Starlight”, “Invincible”, and yes even “Knights of Caledonia” to take on an energy that makes them work. The sold-out crowd ate it up and by the time Bellamy & Co. got to their end-all-be-all perfect song "Stockholm Syndrome" the ballroom was a sea of waving arms and bobbing heads screaming along with every lyric.
Granted, over the top laser lights production makes sense considering the epic reach of Muse's music but the whole thing still felt over blown. The music kills and Matt Bellamy's singing and instrumental skills are absolutely jaw-dropping at times, so shouldn’t that be enough? Does music really need a return to the Spinal-Tapish excesses of baby-boomer supermassive stadium rock? I was almost shocked when the band didn't ride in on flying dolphins for the “Knights of Caledonia” encore.
After the show I was thinking about how my favorite Muse song is called “Stockholm Syndrome” – a psychological term for while held captive against your will, slowly starting to empathize with the people who are holding you captive until you finally see things their way. Hmm…
Watch & Listen:
Muse - video: "Starlight (live)"
11-09-05 Muse @ Webster Hall