Wednesday night, Feb 6, 2013 | Rogers Arena
VANCOUVER — British rock band Muse is consistently deemed one of the best live acts in the world, and for good reason.
As far as multimedia rock excess goes, Muse is carrying the torch passed on by the likes of Queen, U2 and Pink Floyd in mind-blowing fashion.
They proved once again why they became the first act to sell out Wembley Stadium in 2007 — playing for 90,000 fans — when they wrapped the first leg of their 2013 North American tour dates at Rogers Arena Wednesday night.
Yet the concert wasn’t a complete sell-out, with 9,500 or so in attendance.
(Wednesday night’s numbers are an estimate. No official figure was provided by promoter Live Nation.)
While that’s not the end of the world, we’re talking about a band that wrote the London 2012 Olympics theme song — the epic-of-all-trades Survival — and was buoyed for the past five years by the Twilight madness it partly inspired.
Muse’s grandiose live performance Wednesday night was a spectacle filled with LED projections, lasers, anthemic sing-alongs and stratospheric guitars.
It’s too bad The 2nd Law is a bit of a snoozer.
Muse has built a reputation by writing and playing about esoteric themes, and previous album The Resistance was a dystopian masterwork that lent itself perfectly to creating a futuristic sci-fi rock show (and arguably one of the best we’ve ever seen).
The 2nd Law gets its main theme from the theory that says all systems are bound to collapse.
It’s a poetic metaphor for the times we live in, but this kind of convoluted, cerebral stuff isn’t as big a selling point as material about fighting the system.
(Case in point: Uprising, which the band dispensed with first last time around at the Pacific Coliseum, is now an encore favourite.)
It’s a bit ironic because the songs from The 2nd Law, which made up a big chunk of the show, are meant to be some of the most direct and personal that frontman Matt Bellamy, bassist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard have written.
For every Unsustainable, which opened the concert with dubstep wooshes and histrionic guitars, there was a Madness, a U2-esque love song built on Wolstenholme’s pulsating electronic touchpad bass, or an urgent, funkified Panic Station equal parts Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Brian Eno and Freddie Mercury.
But the real meat of the concert was huge operatic numbers like the James Bond-esque Supremacy, blurring the lines between rock opera and punk rock, and classics like fuzzy stomper Supermassive Black Hole, fan favourite Plug In Baby and the stampeding Knights Of Cydonia, the latter of which continues to give Rush a run for its money. (It also serves as a tribute to Telstar, the British rock classic Bellamy’s father penned with The Tornados.)
If the band admitted they had been battling the flu over the past week, it barely showed.
Bellamy hit the high notes (cue the laser-splashed Follow Me) and twisted his guitar strings with a disarming ease, giving shout-outs to Vancouver throughout, while Howard and Wolstenholme acted as the band’s two sturdy rhythmic pillars.
Speaking of pillars, the three-pillar stage setup from the Resistance tour was replaced with a stadium-shaped stage over which loomed a gigantic LED-lit inverted pyramid.
Yes, it was all completely over the top, but what a show.
In the opening slot, Southampton-based trio Band Of Skulls offered a classic rock of a different kind, one devoid of technological artifice.
Think biker-styled Zeppelin with bassist Emma Richardson playing the part of a Fender-wielding Joey Ramone lookalike.
The trio made a fair amount of noise, guitarist/vocalist Matt Hayward thanking the fans for showing up for their early 45-minute set, which kicked off at 7 p.m. sharp.
In a way it was interesting to see the positive response the band received from the crowd considering they barely occupied any space on Muse’s massive stage.
Give them a few years, a box of pyro and a laser rig and who knows what could happen?