In a spontaneous, last minute decision, tonight I attended the latest arena spectacular by rock legends Muse in Toronto, Canada. The show comes off the back of their latest record Simulation Theory, with the tour in question given the same name. Hype articles have been floating around over the last few weeks talking about how the current arena show is the most ambitious the band have ever undertaken. I think I read somewhere that the band said they’d “finally gone too far”.
Well I’ll be the judge of that.
They kicked off the show with support from Walk The Moon – the Ohio quartet who found early success with tracks like “Anna Sun” and have at some times has Australia’s own Lachlan West touring with them (though not here). They’re poppier than Muse, but similarly synth-laden songs like “Kamikaze” don’t feel out of place. Radio friendly pop gems like “One Foot” and of course their mega hit “Shut Up and Dance” does feel too pop for the room, but they get a great reception. They provided a stunning segue to close the set, with the rocking “Headphones”, featuring a Led Zeppelin interlude, no less.
After a half hour intermission, which included a good dose of the Stranger Things soundtrack to set a certain vibe, the trio (+ Morgan) emerged to “Algorithm”, with twelve lit up, dancing horns players helping bring Bellamy to the stage from the depths, ahead of “Pressure” and the rock in “Psycho”, where the trombonists were lit up in the crowd, sans trombones.
During “Break it to Me”, there were acrobats climbing on the screen in white hazmat suits shining lights against projections. Singalongs came early for “Uprising”, though the early part of the set did focus on the newer material – for which there was ample production. There were co2 guns, newer songs like “The Dark Side” were incredible live, and songs like “Supermassive Black Hole” and “Time is Running Out” were as well received as ever. And Chris on Bass, coming down the catwalk stage for “Hysteria”, bringing us that spectacular opening baseline, was the set highlight it always has been. It was a show so good even the instrumental interludes were powerful and hypnotic… with some visuals that felt like they belonged in a Tool concert and snippets of songs from AC/DC and even “YYZ” by Rush I’m pretty sure, in a nod to Toronto.
They went centre stage and semi-acoustic for “Dig Down”, with Bellamy on keys and acrobats flying for a beautiful rendition of the track. They then blow their proverbial load with confetti and streamers during “Mercy”. And then we finally got lasers, with “Take A Bow” and then “Starlight”, with the most amount of lasers I’ve probably ever seen at a concert.. The lights were simply spectacular from start to finish, and they seemed to be built into all corners of the arena.
Then, in what turned out to be the encore, the stage seemed to transform, with light sticks and giant robot dancing men and an arcade machine in the middle of the stage featuring Bellamy’s incoming face (because why not) for “Algorithm”. And then a giant animatronic skeleton thing towered over the stage (and felt very Iron Maiden) as lasers annihalated the audience once again for “Stockholm Syndrome”.
On record, the new Muse music isn’t for me. But there’s no argument the band have never stopped delivering incredible rock concerts, with the sort of spectacle that their music rightly demands. But as for the suggestion they’ve gone too far? I’d say they haven’t. As much as this is one of the best productions you’ll see, ultimately this is still about guitar work, drums (sometimes giant) and four men playing their instruments. And considering there’s only one visible amp on the stage, they play it loud.
And as they played set closer “Knights of Cydonia”, they went back to the basics – having balloons thrown into the crowd at what we like to call the Wayne’s World headbanging moment. And you have this feeling that all that spectacle is just a bonus. Love em or hate em, Muse are a bloody amazing live band, and their show is one of the most fun you’ll see anywhere in the world. And with even their latest music proving to be spectacular in the setting, it’s impossible not to have one hell of a good time while you watch it all unfold.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The reviewer attended the 28th March concert at Scotiabank Arena, Toronto.
Break It to Me
Plug In Baby
The Dark Side
Supermassive Black Hole
The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
Dig Down (Acoustic Version)
Time Is Running Out
Take a Bow
Knights of Cydonia