MUSE at PEPSI CENTER | 9/17/13 A Muse show is never short on spectacle and stunning visuals, and this Pepsi Center date was no exception. One of the most impressive moments came at the beginning of "Sunburn" when a single turquoise beam came down from the ceiling to a sphere held by Matthew Bellamy, where it then seemed to split into multiple beams of light that streamed from a darkened stage out over the heads of the audience. As the song progressed, that lighting gave way to some of the most vivid and fluidly moving colors of the entire set. It was transporting and riveting at once.
The beginning of the Muse set was a production in itself with video screens extending across the base of the stage in a half circle around to the back with a pyramid-shaped structure bearing screens that showed black and white footage.
As disembodied voices from some kind of radio broadcast flooded the room, the pyramid descended, and that's the last time it touched the stage until later in the set. From there, the band treated us to an extravaganza of light and sound, the likes of which rarely happen outside of a Radiohead or Nine Inch Nails concert.
What was also interesting was how such a popular and mainstream band could take such clear shots at status-quo politics in its lyrics. While the band has always scrutinized society, seeing that kind of content delivered in such a grandiose manner was refreshing.
Admirably, Muse hasn't toned down its populist rhetoric as it became more commercially successful and popular. But it wasn't just politicizing. On "Liquid State," which was sung by bassist Chris Wolstenholme on the platform jutting out from the stage, Wolstenholme struck a personal chord with the crowd, reflecting on his struggle with alcohol.
Over the course of the show Bellamy had some obvious vocal inflections reminiscent of Bono, Thom Yorke or even Josh Homme, along with some of the music, but all in all, Muse took those elements and channeled it into a different direction, casting it in its own mold with music that is never short on vivid tones, visceral rhythms and atmospheres and projected emotional intensity.
Continue on for more on Cage the Elephant's set, plus Setlist and Critic's Notebook
Earlier in the evening, Cage the Elephant opened the show with a punk rock fervor playing fairly sophisticated and polished pop songs. Even when the songs hit meditative moments, there was a visceral quality to the performance that never really let up through to the end of the show.
During "Come A Little Closer," Matt Shultz seemed to hold on to the mike like it was the only thing keeping him attached to the ground, and by the time the outfit went into "Shake Me Down," he took off his shirt. Running around and striking dramatic poses, he had charisma and swagger like Mick Jagger without actually miming the iconic Stones frontman -- which was impressive to see.
At the end of the set, Shultz asked, "Are there any punk rockers out there? Prove it," and then the band switched into the decidedly darker and more aggressive territory and trotted out a powerful rendition of "Sabertooth Tiger."
Toward the end of that tune, Shultz leapt forward into the crowd to surf for a few moments; before long, he had enough support to stand up straight and sing for a few beats before making his way back to the stage. It was like seeing something from another decade when huge rock concerts could be theatrical and intimate at the same time.
Muse Pepsi Center - 9/17/13 Denver, CO
01. The 2nd Law: Isolated System 02. Supremacy 03. Supermassive Black Hole 04. Hysteria (Star Spangled Banner intro) 05. Panic Station 06. Resistance 07. Knights of Cydonia (Ennio Morricone's "Man With a Harmonica intro) 08. Monty Jam 09. Sunburn 10. Follow Me 11. Animals 12. Liquid State 12. Madness 13. Plug In Baby 14. Time is Running Out 15. Unnatural Selection (Rage Against the Machine's "Freedom" outro) 16. Uprising (extended ending)
17. The 2nd Law: Unsustainable 18. Starlight 19. Survival
Cage The Elephant Pepsi Center - 9/17/13 Denver, CO
01. In One Ear 02. [new song] 03. Aberdeen 04. Tiny Little Robots 05. Back Against the Wall 06. [new song] 07. Ain't No Rest For the Wicked 08. Indy Kidz 09. Come a Little Closer 10. Shake Me Down 11. Sabertooth Tiger
Personal Bias: I became a bit more of a fan of Cage the Elephant with Melophobia. It's a great balance of pop and rock with thoughtful lyrics. I've been wanting to see the Muse live show for years, and the presentation didn't disappoint. Random Detail: Spotted Alan Andrews of the Photo Atlas at the show. By the Way: This show sounded great beginning to end.