Muse adopted an ominous science-fiction thread to its music in recent years and incorporated these themes into the band’s Will of the People Tour, which began in 2022 and finally landed at Madison Square Garden in 2023. The Muse concert’s many elaborate visual aids helped exploit the unease of our turbulent world by offering an evening’s escape into a mythical universe. The casual listener may have been mystified by the show’s convoluted story line, but the production’s copious amounts of fire, confetti, props and videos provided a non-stop thrill ride.
Formed in 1994 in Teignmouth, England, Muse has released nine albums, the most recent being Will of the People, released on August 26, 2022. On this tour, the band is performing seven of the 10 songs on the album, plus a small smattering of fan favorites from all but its debut album. The overarching theme seemed to point to the threat of the collapse of western civilization, and an uprising of resistance and liberation, with people ultimately appropriating control of their destiny. It hardly mattered. Ultimately the delivered message may have been that the end of the world is at our doorstep, but let’s rock on.
After fine performances by One OK Rock and Evanescence, the house lights went off, the stage lights on, and vocalist/guitarist Matt Bellamy, bassist Chris Wolstenholme, drummer Dominic Howard and touring keyboardist Dan Lancaster took their stations, all wearing black hoodies and reflective masks seemingly constructed from shards of mirrors. Above the drum kit, the letters of the anagram for Will of the People alternated in pulsing flames as the band performed the title track from the album. That was an impressive entrance as the song’s heavy riffs roared through the arena.
The musicians removed their masks and hoodies, and the fires temporarily quelled for the second song. Wolstenholme ran the catwalk to the smaller stage at the center of the arena and launched into the bass line that starts “Hysteria” from 2003’s Absolution album. The other musicians quickly joined in the hard and heavy rhythms, softening when Bellamy began singing.
As the show progressed, the songs were enhanced by an array of spectacles. Videos, lasers, strobes, fire towers, and arena-filling explosions of streamers and confetti recurred as songs reached their crescendos. Six large mirrors, rimmed with LED lights, rotated above the stage, reflecting lasers into the audience. An enormous inflatable of a menacing hooded character with a mirrored mask appeared as the background for several songs, later replaced by another inflatable, this one with the appearance of a threatening minotaur. At one point, Bellamy played a guitar solo while seated on the shoulder of the first inflatable. At another point, while on the small stage in the center of the arena, Bellamy played a “power glove,” a glowing synthesizer sewn onto the sleeve of his flashing LED-lit jacket. The visual stimuli kept on coming throughout the program.
Spectacle alone would not satisfy rock fans, however. Muse crushed its bombastic sounds with clever inflections of alternative, progressive, and electronica, all rooted in the band’s hard rock center. Bellamy softened the crunch with his smooth singing, sometimes climbing to a falsetto. He frequently punctuated songs with searing guitar leads, sometimes playing them while kneeling on the stage and leaning backwards.
The musicians did not speak often, but at one point Bellamy paused the music to appreciate a Muser. A superfan named Catherine was near the stage, attending her 200th Muse concert. The band honored her by dedicating and performing “Madness” from The 2nd Law.
Despite its warning of humankind’s apocalyptic and dystopian destiny, Muse’s highly imaginative production was not a call to arms. For two full hours, Muse engaged the audience with solid high-octane rock. The audience departed the arena having enjoyed the futuristic adventure and leaving behind confetti, streamers, and the scent of the pyrotechnics’ explosions… the return to real life was jarring.
- Will of the People
- Bliss (with an extended outro)
- Won’t Stand Down
- Thought Contagion
- Time Is Running Out
- The 2nd Law: Isolated System
- You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween (with Johann S. Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue in D minor’ intro)
- We Are Fucking Fucked
- The Dark Side (Alternate Reality Version; instrumental)
- Supermassive Black Hole
- Plug In Baby
- Behold, the Glove (Matt Bellamy song)
- Uprising (with extended outro)
- Kill or Be Killed
- Knights of Cydonia (with Ennio Morricone’s “Man with a Harmonica” Intro)