Tim Kubick / For The Lantern
The Muse concert at The Schottenstein Center on Tuesday was either a marking moment of the band’s descent out of fame, or a sign of Muse’s ability to pack a hefty concert punch with less gaudy set-ups.
Tuesday was not my first Muse experience. I saw the British rockers in 2010 in Atlanta at the Gwinnett Arena after the release of “The Resistance.” At the first show, the three band members descended out of the ceiling of the arena on 20-foot towers that went up and down throughout the night. Those towers also doubled as giant video screens. Yet for the Columbus show on Tuesday, Muse came onto the stage with a semi-generic setup.
Drummer Dominic Howard sat on a slightly raised platform, lead singer Matt Bellamy’s main microphone was stage right and bassist Christopher Wolstenholme was set up on stage left. Nothing crazy there. The stage was left very open with rectangular video panels angled upward, lining the back of the stage.
What concerned me: the entire top balcony of The Schott was closed off, and even then, the section directly facing the stage was clearly peppered with empty seats, although the floor was packed. Could it be possible Muse is having a hard time selling out an arena?
The band took the stage and opened with “Supremacy” off its newest album “The 2nd Law.”
It wasn’t until the third song when Muse really seemed to begin the show. A pyramid-like structure made of video monitors came down over the stage as “Supermassive Black Hole” began. An extra electronic section was included in the track that isn’t usually there, which Bellamy played off his guitar.
Bellamy encouraged the crowd to begin clapping as the band started to play “Resistance,” and the singer walked to the front of the stage, and down onto a lower level of the stage.
Unexpectedly, “The Star-Spangled Banner” started. Bellamy played nearly the entire anthem on his guitar, which then meshed into the beginning of “Panic Station.”
The best part of Muse is the fact that the members are all old friends. It is just the three of them, and always has been. Bellamy is clearly the star of the group, but for “Liquid State,” Wolstenholme took center stage. Bellamy took his spot behind Howard on the drum stand and allowed Wolstenholme to have his moment. Then the drum stand began to turn with both musicians on top.
The best extended opener of the night was for “Knights of Cydonia.” Wolstenholme pulled out his harmonica and played the opening riff to the song, but I didn’t recognize it until Bellamy began playing the guitar section – that is after he was done spinning the spotlight around the arena himself. The song ended with a drumming showcase, and then moved into a drum/synthesizer section.
“The 2nd Law” was recognized for meshing electronic music into Muse’s rock style, and the drumming section showed off some of the dubstep the band has been trying out. As the electronic section ended, Bellamy started playing a grand piano. “Follow Me” was played, followed by “United States of Eurasia,” which was paired with videos of war and political figures.
As “Madness” was played, Bellamy donned sunglasses, which said the words of the lyrics as he sang them, and he pulled the camera right next to his face as he sang so the crowd could see the lyrics on his glasses.
“You’re better than Cleveland or Cincinnati,” Bellamy said to the Columbus crowd, in one of his infrequent conversations with the audience.
Howard moved off his drum stand and onto the main stage level to play several upright drums for “Undisclosed Desires.” Bellamy started the crowd waving back and forth and then jumped down into the pit to greet fans in the front row.
Muse had the floor jumping with “Time Is Running Out,” and the section that is usually a piano in the recordings was traded in for a guitar instead.
The stage was turned into a giant roulette table with choices of “New Born” or “Stockholm Syndrome” displayed on the monitors. As the ball rolled from monitor to monitor, it landed on “Stockholm Syndrome” as the choice for next song.
The pyramid made of video screens then descended all the way to the bottom of the stage and covered Muse in the center. The screen showed a lot of people running around, and it lasted much longer than it should have.
Bellamy and Wolstenholme then appeared on the far left and right sides of the stage while the pyramid still covered Howard drumming in the center, and the final song “Uprising” began.
All was going according to plan, except the pyramid, which was supposed to reveal Howard, never came up.
“This is hilarious. The pyramid was supposed to come up,” Bellamy said in the middle of the song. The pyramid finally came up revealing Howard as Bellamy peeked beneath the monitors when they rose.
Muse left the stage, only to come back minutes later for an encore. “Starlight” came first, “Survival” was second, and the band finished with smoke pouring out of the stage along with red lights.
Bellamy and Wolstenholme left the stage and the drummer came forward to throw his sticks into the crowd and thank everyone, and he said Columbus had been the loudest crowd of the tour so far.
The bottom line is that the concert was well done, the music sounded great live and the video projections and the digital aspect of the show was phenomenal. But Muse was lacking the almost gaudy performance I had been expecting. Bellamy himself said he wants outlandish setups and all sorts of other things in his tour, so a more traditional stage setup was a little off-putting for Muse.