As a band, Muse, don’t seem to have an arrow of subtlety in their quiver. Everything they do and undertake, from the wide soprano operatics of main Muso, Matt Bellamy, to his shredding guitar solos, to the bombastic playing of drummer Dom Howard and the rapid-fire bass playing of Chris Wolstenholme, musically, there’s a density that most other bands don’t possess. Furthering this statement, the band is known for the high production value and quality of the stagecraft of their tours. As far back as 2001, when the band was playing clubs, they still had more lights than their compatriots playing similar tours. The video component of Muse shows was the first nod towards where their future would head. Since adding video screens, the band partnered with animation companies who could rise to their imagination. Their popularity (and increasing music and ticket sales) allowed them to continue upscaling their stage shows. The first glimpse into their vision occurred on their tour for their album Resistance, where each member of the trio played portions of their show on their own tower-like platform. Consecutive tours ramped up the creativity with the 2nd Law shows opening with the band playing from within a pyramid structure built from video screens for their arena shows before moving to something resembling an office building composed of video screens and lighting rigs for their summer stadium shows. That tour also included acrobats and actors as additional performers, something that would appear in future Muse concerts. Shows promoting the band’s next album, Drones, to no surprise combined massive LED panels, approximately one millions lights and yes, large spherical drones. So, where does a band go when they’ve seemingly added everything to a stage show that can be imagined? Conclude the show with a massive killer robot, of course.
The band’s eight and latest album Simulation Theory doesn’t have a strict theme, but as usual, touches on thoughts from the darker corners of our humanity and how they intertwine with technology. This time around, the band uses an 80s-coloured visuals and aural pastiche to present their ideas about how we could be living in a simulation. The band shot many music videos for the songs with the intention of making one for every song, each borrowing heavily from 80s films, music, style and culture. So how did they do translating this material to the stage? Pretty damn well, if you ask me and twenty thousand Toronto-based Muse fans.
The show started as most Muse shows with a video introducing what to expect over the next two hours. Opening with a mostly vocal version of Algorithm, the opening featured Bellamy rising to the massive starship shaped stage to sing Pressure from the latest album. Surrounded by horn playing dancers, the spectacle began. It’s a daunting task to try to describe the stage. It featured a long b-stage catwalk that allowed the performers to walk into the middle of the arena below a massive light truss which resembled the ship on the Simulation Theory album cover. In later songs, a small setup arose so the band could perform Dig Down as an acoustic gospel arrangement. It also allowed Bellamy the opportunity to croon while long time touring band member Morgan Nicholls held down the guitar playing. Plug In Baby, Time Is Running Out and Starlight were standout singalong moments as Bellamy encouraged the audience to take lead vocals. The spectacle of the show built song by song, revealing something new. Whether it was lasers, cannons shooting massive amounts of confetti and metallic streamers, choreographed light pole dances, foam spraying guns, an onstage video console game, video production rivalry anything you’d see in tv or film, Muse spares no thought or expense on adding the pageantry to their music. Three songs before the end, the robot made his appearance. Nicknamed Murph by the band, the enormous inflatable emerged from behind the stage, threatening the band as they played the full band version of Algorithm, a medley of Stockholm Syndrome, Assassin, Reapers, The Handler and New Born dubbed the Metal Medley and the usual closer, Knights of Cydonia. As the show closed down with this rocking number, it was safe to say that everyone who witnessed this grand spectacle left not just entertained but with some thoughts to the message this sensational show’s themes touched upon.
The Simulation Theory tour continues through North America in April before heading to Europe for the summer. Muse’s year ends with two shows in Mexico City on October 2 & 3 at the 65,000 seat Foro Sol stadium before playing Rock In Rio and Santiago, Chile