Review: Muse brings the noise to tiny SXSW 'secret' gig
Plus: Opening act Metric kills it
“I can see your faces,” smiled Muse frontman Matt Bellamy on Friday, a phrase he can rarely utter, considering the band is used to arenas and headlining major music festivals, performing legions away even from their front rows. But for this “secret” MySpace Music show, fans were only a couple feet from the stage, which sat no taller than chest height, in backyard of Stubb’s, capacity of around 2000.
Bringing its particular brand of space-rock chutzpah – as well as an ounce of signature paranoia – the British band launched directly into “Uprising” from their new 2009 album “The Resistance,” sending fists poking at the sky, the crowd singing along, “We will be victorious.” We sure will, even if it’s with voices in falsetto, as Bellamy delivered next on “Supermassive Black Hole.”
The title track from “Resistance” was airtight, but it was the Nine Inch Nailsian “Hysteria” that brought the bonkers, with drummer Dominic Howard unrelentingly, mercilessly pounding on 11 from start to finish, voices making the demand “I want it now/ give me your heart and you soul.”
Muse, typically a three-piece but with the percussive contributions of a fourth, busted out the lasers after four songs, the green fingers dotting trees and the dirty air for the remainder. The track Most Likely to Make You Feel Like a Big-Budget Action Movie Star goes to “Stockholm Syndrome” growled out at first with the famed riff from Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker,” one of the band’s favorite live performance tricks.
The exhilaration temporarily fired down for a fraction of “Nishe,” then into the “United States of Eurasia,” which just went and went and went, Bellamy in a white t-shirt (as opposed to a shiny jacket of some sort) at the keyboard and getting us all sentimental and missing Queen. He stayed put for “Starlight” (from 2006’s “Black Holes and Revelations”) and then indicated the set’s end with “Time is Running Out” from 2003’s “Absolution.”
And then there was the melodramatics of “Unnatural Selection,” also from “The Resistance,” which sent the male-dominated crowd into hysterics: teenage boys with piercings and eyeliner gripped their hair hysterically, bros pointed and shouted “hey” on the fours. From the slow burn of the “Phantom”-like organ, to the crisp pre-pre-chorus to the slow-jam midsection and the metal chug through minute seven, Muse was on, and apparently playing Your Favorite Song. It amazes me that such a small band can make that much noise.
In its final gesture, in the encore, bassist Chris Wolstenholme played a lonesome harmonica intro to grandiose “Knights of Cydonia,” with it’s B-grade horror movie harpsichord keyboard parts, it’s underpinning nod to The Who and the perfect time to jump up in the air.
I personally would have lost my mind were the band to play some tracks from one of its earliest, “Origins of Symmetry,” particularly “Citizen Erased”, but the band only dug back to 2003’s “Absolution.” No matter, there was plenty of pleasing material from the last few, and Muse played it all deftly, largely and happily, for a small group of diehards that might as well have been transported to another planet than corralled into a backyard BBQ joint.
As for opener Metric: I could audibly hear crowd members unfamiliar with their material become new converts, with the especially loud rumblings of Emily Haines and company shaking the bottoms of our lungs. They too stuck with the strong, gargantuan material from last year’s “Fantasies” and 2007’s “Grow Up and Blow Away.” “Help I’m Alive” was obviously the most familiar track to the audience, but by midway, dancing assumed and Haines’ wirey blond hair was all a mess from thrashing. They killed it.
Supermassive Black Hole
United States of Eurasia
Time is Running Out
Knights of Cydonia