Aftermath: Muse On The March At Toyota Center

Categories: Live Shots, SXSW
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Photos by Mark C. Austin
Who does Muse think they are?

Big Rock Stars, with a Big Stage Set to go along with their Big Ideas. A Big Stage Set that can, apparently, only be photographed from 100 yards away - any closer and the British trio's synapse-taxing lasers and jackbooted rock might have fractured a lens or something.

But the biggest thing of all about Muse is the melodies, which bolt the sweeping ache and melancholy majesty of a Tchaikovsky symphony or Rachmaninoff concerto (Aftermath likes the Russians; so does this band) to girders of hard-rock fortitude. For a band that nine times out of ten gets labeled "progressive," it's remarkably simple. And deadly effective.

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Muse opened with "Uprising," which began against a backdrop of silhouetted figures climbing staircases on the stage towers, some falling off, as synthesizer squiggles gradually resolved into the bounding bass line and jolting power chords that staged a coup on U.S. radio last fall and allowed the longtime stadium rockers in their homeland to finally graduate to American sports arenas. (Toyota Center was about three-quarter full - the lower bowl almost totally, the middle section maybe half, and the top tier not so much.)

Right-wing ranter Glenn Beck tried to appropriate this anthem of individuality vs. official oppression to no small degree of consternation from the band shortly after it was released last year, but he wouldn't have liked the way it was presented Thursday at all - the crimson LED lights, front man Matt Bellamy's Venetian-blind glasses and crowd shots gave off a "Power to the People" vibe like a Red Army recruiting drive at Ridgemont High. When the light filtered through at a certain angle, the three band members appeared to be standing on top of cages. Symbolic?

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