One gets the sense that Muse – well a decade into being one of the biggest live draws in the rock music realm – has its rap down pat at this point. Multiple rounds of headlining the biggest festivals across the U.S. and United Kingdom have made them a well-oiled machine able to project their paranoid-future stadium rock onto crowds of 10,000+ without losing much in the way of lyrical or compositional nuance.
This is the case even when the band is in something of an “in between” phase as it was Saturday at Austin360 Amphitheater for a show with Thirty Seconds To Mars, who also know a thing or three about oversized, dramatic rock pomp.
This tour, booked around a handful of festival gigs, finds Muse in the middle of the recording process for a 2018 record that’ll be the follow-up to 2015’s “We’re all gonna die!” concept album “Drones.”
Such a situation might’ve kindled hope that the show would offer sneak peeks at some new material, but the only taste of Muse-to-come came at the top of the show with “Dig Down,” the single released in May in advance of the tour. Aside from a few between-song instrumental jams and explorations and a campy cover of the Cramps’ “New Kind Of Kick,” Saturday was 100 minutes of laser-focused bombastic rock that retreated to a simmer just enough to make the highs hit with dramatic force.
That meant the creep and slither of modern rock radio mainstay “Supermassive Black Hole” felt almost overwhelming (in a good way) while “Madness” was presented with more space and sparseness in its composition while still packing the vocal and backing synth throbs that give it its distinctive hooks.
Another undeniable observation came on the 10-or-so minutes of “Drones”: While lead singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy isn’t a singular vocal talent like Freddie Mercury, it’s obvious that the band aims for the high drama of Queen, and sometimes manages to get there. With the song carved into three distinct sections – acoustic opening, apocalyptic rock noise middle, piano and vocal overdubs close – it was stone obvious that Muse has evolved from the “Radiohead starter kit” they were cast as in the late ‘90s into a band that can stand on its own.
And they can do that while connecting with a massive audience, both from the stage and while Bellamy ventured into the amphitheater crowd near show’s end to lead the audience in a singalong to the anthemic “Starlight” from the concourse between the seats and lawn audiences. It’s a well-worn bit of showmanship – this reviewer has seen two other acts do the same move at the same venue in recent years – but it’s one that works.
Bellamy and his bandmates know how and when to deploy those tricks of the trade at this point, and how to provide another high point during a show that had a lot of them.
Supermassive Black Hole
New Kind Of Kick (Cramps cover)
Time Is Running Out
Knights Of Cydonia
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