Arena rock for the new millenium: Muse & Silversun Pickups @KeyArena 04.02.10

When it comes to arena rock there are two categories of bands: Muse and everyone else.

That seemed to be the theme of the U.K. trio’s sold-out concert at KeyArena Friday night that was complete with lasers, confetti, massive elevating video screens and a few tributes to the most famous three-piece from Seattle thrown in for good measure.

Touring behind The Resistance, its fifth studio record, Muse’s show’s eye-popping visuals were well worth the price of admission alone. The band – Matthew Bellamy, bassist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard – made its grand entrance towering above the crowd atop of three, giant elevated platforms for show opener “Uprising.” The bottom of the platforms served as LED video screens and each had an equally huge and impressive LED screen platform hanging above it suspended from the ceiling so when Muse appeared in the middle it looked like they were in the middle of three giant skyscrapers.

The impressive skyscraper video screens weren’t the evening’s only pieces of eye candy. Giant eyeball balloons filled with confetti rained on the crowd at the end of the main set, the light show was more potent than a Griswold family Christmas and throughout the two-hour concert there was enough smoke and green lasers to make Rush jealous. With its Resistance Tour Muse redefined arena rock for the new millennium (see the video below for proof).

The visuals wouldn’t mean much if the music couldn’t match their grandiose nature and the music is where Muse excelled. The 19-song set was filled with songs that carry fist-pumping, shout-along choruses with weighty lyrical themes large in scope ranging from global warming to rebellion. Bellamy displayed some amazing guitar skills with plenty of crazy sounding squawks, squeaks and squeals that practically out Morelloed Rage Against the Machine virtuoso Tom Morello. Howard and Wolstenholme were equally on top of their respective games but Bellamy stole the show with his guitar acrobatics. There was also a fourth member of the band on stage (a touring member only) hiding near the back of Howard’s drum riser who was playing additional percussion and adding all sorts of bleeps and bloops to Muse’s futuristic arena prog sound.

During a few points Bellamy played brief interludes between songs that showcased his skills. He riffed freestyle for a bit and then broke into familiar territory with the riff to Nirvana’s “Negative Creep.” Thankfully it wasn’t a cover because I couldn’t imagine Bellamy screaming in a throaty Cobain voice. But that wasn’t only time a snippet of Nirvana made it into the set. At the end of “Plug in Baby” Bellamy played “School,” a bit of “Endless, Nameless” and then he threw his guitar, which reportedly was one of his favorites, at Howard’s kickdrum neck first. The bit of Cobainian showmanship snapped the instrument in two. It was a move Cobain might have attempted himself, although I don’t think he ever would have done so on a stage sporting lasers and gargantuan skyscraper LED towers.

If Muse’s massive stateside success seems like a surprise I’m going to have to pull the rock snob card on you. I really do hate say I told you so, but well, I told you so. Way back in 2004 when the band rocked Neumos (yes, that’s right Muse played a 500-capacity venue in Seattle back in the day) they more or less put on an arena rock show inside a very small space. Anyone who was there knew it was only a matter of time before Muse hit it big and Friday’s show, which wasn’t the first time Muse rocked KeyArena but it definitely was their biggest Seattle concert, was a band at its peak displaying its prowess over a capacity crowd.

Los Angeles band Silversun Pickups opened the show with an solid 45-minute set. The last time I caught SSPU they were performing in the middle of a sun-drenched day at the Gorge Amphitheatre during last year’s Sasquatch! Music Festival and they sounded horrible mostly due to the cavernous Gorge swallowing their sound. Fortunately Friday night they sounded like a band that was meant to play arenas with a performance that filled KeyArena. Singer and guitarist Brian Aubert displayed some impressive moves with his axe and added lots of frontman swagger for some extra flair.

Like Muse, Silversun Pickups are also a band that played Neumos before playing in front of arena crowds. While they weren’t the evening’s headliners, it’s likely a sure bet Aubert was taking notes on his tourmates’ show. If Friday’s set was any indication on the band’s projected growth I’m guessing in a few years I’ll be able to say I told you so again when  Silversun Pickups are headlining arenas.

Muse set list (from Muse wiki)

We Are the Universe (Intro)
New Born
Supermassive Black Hole
Interlude w/Back in Black & Negative Creep riffs + Hysteria
Guiding Light
United States of Eurasia
Ruled by Secrecy
Feeling Good (Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley cover)
Helsinki Jam
Undisclosed Desires
Unnatural Selection
Time Is Running Out
Plug in Baby w/School and Endless, Nameless riffs
Exogenesis: Symphony Part I (Overture)
Stockholm Syndrome
Man with a Harmonica + Knights of Cydonia

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