The English band
Yet despite the band’s well-established commitment to hugeness -- it broke through to American audiences in 2006 with “Supermassive Black Hole” -- you had to register some kind of surprise at the way it packed
But Muse is a weird band -- deeply weird, in fact, obsessed with hidden pockets of science and technology and prone to crypto-libertarian ruminations on government overreach. Frontman Matt Bellamy has said that he was inspired to write the trio’s most recent studio album, last year’s “The 2nd Law,” after watching economists discuss thermodynamics on the
And there he and his bandmates were Wednesday, playing the first of three concerts at Staples -- one more than Madonna,
Muse used the rarefied setting -- which it reached through a variety of strategies, including steady touring and savvy licensing deals -- to exercise a deep-seated love of spectacle. In "Madness," Bellamy put on a pair of sunglasses that flashed the song's lyrics across their lenses; later, a pyramid of virtual televisions descended from above the stage during "Stockholm Syndrome," swallowing up drummer Dominic Howard. Throughout its nearly two-hour set, the band (which also includes bassist Chris Wolstenholme and, on tour, keyboardist Morgan Nicholls) was surrounded by roving beams of light carefully coordinated with the music.
And the music was no less showy. Muse opened with the harsh dubstep textures of “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” and kept adding other flavors to its guitar-rock foundation: sleek machine beats for “Madness” and “Undisclosed Desires,” fuzzy funk bass in “Panic Station” and “Supermassive Black Hole.” For the sci-fi ballad “Explorers,” Bellamy plunked out plaintive chords on a transparent grand piano; the song sounded uncannily like “No Surprises” by
As comfortable as the men were in that rock-god role, though, a subtext seemed to run just below the surface of Wednesday's show, observable in some of the images flashing on the many video screens onstage and in the occasional look on Bellamy's face as he took in the sea of pumping fists before him. The singer appeared to be working out the difference between a critique of power and power itself -- between what it means to sing about "the fat cats [having] a heart attack," as he did in "Uprising," and to be the guy exerting a fair amount of control over an arena full of people.