Last Night: Muse at Toyota Center
There are certain types of bands you expect to pack arenas: bands who have figured out the power of pop hooks (Maroon 5), bands who play the most populist modern rock imaginable (Nickelback), and the dinosaurs of classic rock (Fleetwood Mac).
Muse could have been any of these things. If they wanted, they could probably write funkier, catchier hooks than Maroon 5. They could have a catalog of heartfelt ballads and rockers stronger than Nickelback's. Okay, maybe they can't be a dinosaur of classic rock, but that's just because we don't have time machines yet.
Instead, Muse is a band that wears its influences on its collective sleeve, mixing and matching them to create a sound that is uniquely their own. A lot of bands cite Queen and Rage Against the Machine as influences, but most of them don't understand the difference between ripping them off and refining their sound.
Whether you like the music or not, fans of rock should at least find Muse's existence as an arena-rock group reaffirming. How many bands could write a track as silly as "Knights of Cydonia" AND pack big venues?
In the same way they've taken their musical influences and refined them into a sound that is their own, Muse has managed to take the arena-rock experience and refine it into a presentation that's familiar but not boring.
Matt Bellamy has all of the moves of a rock star without any of the boring excess. He doesn't stop the show to tell everyone how much he likes alcohol or repeatedly encourage them to make more noise. Instead he uses theatricality to wring out every bit of emotion -- real or not -- he can from a song, frequently dropping to his knees to show just how much he's feeling the moment or how cool you can look playing guitar while on your knees.
He also walks around in a pair of sunglasses during "Madness," but since the song sounds like a U2 B-side, I assume that's just him getting in touch with his inner Bono.
Still, it's refreshing to go to a show where, even with the big stage and multiple video screens, the music remains the most important part of the event. Blasting through 19 songs in just under two hours, there was something for old and new Muse fans alike, from the more straightforward rock of 2001's "New Born" to last year's dubstep-influenced "Unsustainable." For all the outcry that song got last year, it slays in the live environment.