Muses campaign for The Resistance got off to a bumpy ride last year, everything from lukewarm reviews to mixed fan reactions. Filling a live set with material off the new record for their current tour looked like a move that could only hurt them. Luckily, Muse rose to the occasion, both figuratively and literally, with a dazzling audio-visual show that pleased both hardcore and casual fans.
Upon entering the arena, it was difficult to tell what type of show fans were going to get. Most of the stage was shrouded by curtains. Opening act the Silversun Pickups quickly drew the attention away from the mystery stage and onto themselves with a blistering set of their biggest songs. The excitement of playing in the Garden certainly helped pump up their usual high-energy performance, especially that of frontman Brian Aubert, whose vocals were even better than the high-quality trackd he lays down in the studio. Unfortunately, Muses staging did impact the Silversun Pickups since it completely blocked fans behind the stage from seeing any of SSPU. Despite this, by the end of their set, they had everyone in the arena cheering them on like they were the headliners.
After a short wait, the lights went down in the arena and appeared behind the curtain. People could be seen climbing a stairway behind the curtain as the intro music swelled and Muse crashed into last year’s single, Uprising. The curtain dropped, revealing the band standing on three separate pedestals — really LED screens. Rectangular blocks hung from the ceiling, spouting out the same near-overload of visuals. The crowd welcomed both Uprising and the next song, Resistance, as if they were classic Muse numbers and the band played to support this theory. The one-two opening punch — arguably some of the strongest material culled from The Resistance — came to life onstage and vastly superseded its studio versions.
At this point, it looked like the band may have remained on their pedestals all night, which would have been disheartening for the fans on the floor who waited since 6 am to see Muse. Fortunately, the platforms slowly moved down to the stage as New Born started. Once they reached floor level, the song really kicked in as Matt Bellamy slid across the stage in trademark rock star fashion. The band followed this fan favorite with Map of the Problematique and Supermassive Black Hole, which sent the crowd into a frenzy that continued the entire night.
Hits and fan favorites from past albums were interspersed with material from their latest. This was a very smart move on Muses part, since a string of new songs could have put a damper on the entire set, especially during filler tracks like Guiding Light. Instead, the opening duo contained the only two Resistance songs played back to back. Everything else was spread out with both hits (Hysteria) and rarities (Nishe) playing to different parts of the audience.
In terms of performance, everything was perfect. From the trippy, sci-fi visuals that accompanied every song to the massive amount of talent displayed, Muse had their entire show down and they knew it. They played with a sense of professional technique yet still managed to showboat and run around the stage on nearly every track. The jam sessions were another highlight, with Bellamy playing a quick version of Led Zeppelins Heartbreaker, then giving up the spotlight so Christopher Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard could engage in a bass and drum session.
The only weak song choice was the decision to have the nearly seven-minute Resistance track “Unnatural Selection” close the main set. The song is relatively unknown and way too long — which killed the momentum the band had built through the entire night. Any of the three mega-hits played right before it (“Starlight”, “Time is Running Out”, and “Plug in Baby”) would have worked much better.
The three-song encore was as equally epic, starting off with a stunningly beautiful rendition of Exogenesis: Symphony, Part 1: Overture. From there, Bellamy let his last guitar notes echo out into the arena until he switched into a heavy, heavy version of Stockholm Syndrome. There was only one way left for Muse to top this performance. It started with a harmonica. Wolstenholme stood on stage alone, playing the classic Man with the Harmonica from Once Upon A Time In The West. The rest of the band joined in playing the number before Bellamys wordless yells signaled the start of Knights of Cydonia. While it made for a good opener on Muses last tour, it works even better as a closer, combining many of the bands best elements and ending with one of the best live solos of the 21st century.
Two hours passed too quickly, the house lights went on and the fans filed out, singing bits of different Muse songs. Friday night at Madison Square Garden proved why this band sells out stadiums in Europe and has such incredible success around the world, success that has eluded them so far in the States. But if their New York show was any indication, that will soon change. On this campaign, Muse has set out to conquer America. After seeing them live, it looks like they already have.
Map of the Problematique
Supermassive Black Hole
United States of Eurasia
Plug In Baby
Time Is Running Out
Exogenesis: Symphony, Part 1: Overture
Knights of Cydonia