It’s almost impossible to imagine England’s glam-bastic future-shock trio Muse peddling their warp-speed, Dark Matter riffs and florid piano interludes anywhere smaller than the Patriot Center, the coziest basketball arena on the itinerary of their U.S. tour. Wembley-packing popular in Europe, they traversed American football stadiums last fall supporting U2, a gig they may have cinched for their ability to make the headliners appear restrained and subtle by comparison.
Subtlety was irrelevant at last-night’s retina-singeing ode to space operatic excess. For the 105-minute pageant to express the band’s apocalypse-is-coming, so-shall-we-rock quintessence any more perfectly would have required giant harvester-like robots to wander into the audience and atomize us with their laser rays. A stage comprised of three telescoping video-cube platforms yawned open to reveal the three band members, lightsabering their way through “Uprising,” the pulsing, ominous opener of their latest album, The Resistance. (This is one band where the titles tell you exactly what you’re in for.) Lyrics “They will not control us! We will be victorious!” flashed as the crowd chanted along, implicitly telling Them exactly where They can cram their . . . well, whatever.
Drawing from throughout their catalog, the threesome remained in relentless musical lockstep all night. Their chops and commitment are unimpeachable. But for a band that got a gushing on-air endorsement from Glenn Beck last fall for the admonitions of creeping totalitarian bondage in their lyrics, Muse’s live show demonstrates an odd lack of self-awareness. The recurring image-menu of warfare and calamity, subtitles urging us to STAND! AND! FIGHT!, and of course, Muse’s logo, strongly recall the “two-minute hate” from Orwell’s 1984, a book these guys surely know all about.
But, Dude, sorry for overthinking it! One of the best physical gags was the lowest-tech: The seminal cut “Plug In Baby” was accompanied by a release of SmartCar-sized balloons printed to look like eyeballs, showering the crowd in red-viscera confetti as they exploded. The crowd on the court was surprisingly relaxed about bursting those eyeballs, ha-ha-ha-ho, forcing the band to stall a bit for balloon disposal before lighting into their next number, called, appropriately, “Time Is Running Out.”
Hail, Muse! We eagerly anticipate your Super Bowl LXV halftime appearance in 2031, a gig you will cinch for your ability to make the big game, and the commercials, seem restrained and subtle by comparison.
A version of this review with photos appears on Click Track, the Washington Post music blog.