The Brits know pomp and circumstance — from the Queen’s Jubilee to the rock band Queen, from high tea to bewigged judges, from royal weddings to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. And who can forget the London Olympics Closing Ceremony last year that featured Muse, the biggest British rock band that the rest of the world doesn’t know (its “Survival” was the Olympics’ theme song).
In rock, nobody does pomp and circumstance better than Muse. Nobody does it bigger. Louder. Or more bombastic. For Muse, massive is minimal — whether at the Olympics or at Target Center, where the British trio returned Thursday night.
Muse was once again magical, thanks to its sonic boom, stunning visuals and sound-and-fury drama. Experiencing this sensory overload was like being inside your favorite video game for 100 minutes.
First, the visuals. Video screens engulfed the band, with a curved wall ringing the back of the stage, a wrap framing the front of the stage and an inverted pyramid of screens hovering over the stage. Throughout the show, a kaleidoscope of images flashed across the screens: geometric patterns, stock-market tickers, eyeballs, a roulette wheel, floating animated lips and the musicians playing live. At the end of the main set, the inverted pyramid descended and suddenly transformed into an upright pyramid covering the band.
While all this was dazzlingly cool, it was not as jaw-droppingly wow as Muse’s 2010 show at Target Center when the three musicians performed atop three-story-tall pedestals, which became display cases for a visual feast.
This time, singer-guitarist Matt Bellamy seemed more approachable as he sometimes stood on a runway among the fans and even slapped a few hands. But he still didn’t seem comfortable being one with his people.
Sporting an asymmetric spiky hairdo that suggests he’s a member of the British Bad Hair Club for Rock Stars, Bellamy, 34, sang grandiose lyrics about panic, paranoia and revolution. He focused on material from last year’s “The 2nd Law,” whose theme seems to be that all our systems will inevitably fall apart.
Since the music has more dance textures than any of Muse’s previous five albums (dating back to 1999), listeners don’t have to get caught up in the cerebralness of the message. Rather it was easier to just drown in the sound of Muse, a roaring mashup of Queen, Pink Floyd and Radiohead on steroids.
The songs were heavy but compact, missing the abundant Bellamy guitar heroics of 2010’s show. He did cut loose with searing psychedelia on “Animals” and with flashes of flamenco alternating with thrash metal on “Survival.” After the surging “Resistance,” Bellamy lit into “The Star-Spangled Banner” Hendrix-style to the delight of the 8,000 fans. Wonder if he instead does “God Save the Queen” at concerts in England?
The crowd rallied behind the fist-waving, Rush-evoking “Knights of Cydonia,” the epic “Uprising” (with guitar screeches that sounded like Debbie Harry singing “Call Me”) and the current single “Madness,” Muse’s prettiest, sexiest song, that suggests George Michael doing U2.
Still, despite all those moments when Muse recalled some of its predecessors/influences, there was no question on Thursday that Muse stands alone as rock’s kings of pomp and circumstance.
Long live the kings.