The Muse concert in Sacramento last night at the Sleep Train Arena was, on a personal note, Night #2 of 2 for me, having seen them the night before at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Two totally different experiences (more on that later), but another Epic show by a band that delivers rock entertainment like no one else on tour today. Over the course of seeing them, one thing I’ve learned is that location matters at these shows, and I wouldn’t necessarily say one place is better than another (close or far), as they have such an elaborate and brilliant production and presentation, wherever you are in the venue you will experience something very special indeed. As I said in yesterday’s review, they are most definitely a band that needs to be experienced live in concert and their music is designed to be performed live in front of thousands.
The production is high tech, slick, and, well, magical. Having had a chance to see it twice now, I have a much better understanding of how it all works. As noted, it is nothing short of stunning, with video monitors all over the stage, as well as a transforming pyramid that plays both pre-recorded as well as live footage of the three principals in the band – Matthew Bellamy, Christopher Wolstenholme, and Dominic Howard.
High quality, frenetic, and artistic – and it all is consistent with what you might imagine or dream about while listening to their special brand of anthemic, futuristic, genre bending mixture of alternative rock, electronic, heavy metal, progressive rock.
As mentioned in my “Part 1” review yesterday, I am surethat this will be one of the best tours of 2013. The concerts feature many tracks from their amazing 2012 release, The 2nd Law.
Who or Supporting: Band of Skulls
Venue: Sleep Train Arena
Where: Sacramento, California
Promoter/Presented By: Goldenvoice and Another Planet Entertainment
When: January 29, 2013
Seating: General Admission Floor (2nd row on Matt’s side of the stage)
SEE “PART 1” REVIEW: Muse at Oracle Arena | Oakland, California | 1/28/2013 (Concert Review)
Presented by Goldenvoice with Another Planet Entertainment, this show took place at the Sleep Train Arena (formerly known as Powerbalance Pavilion and Arco Arena before that…).
As mentioned in the prior review, I’m generally not a fan of sports-style indoor stadiums, and this one has long had a reputation for poor sound. I don’t know if there has been a change or upgrade, but I didn’t find any issue with the sound at this show last night. More interestingly is how small it is, relative to Oracle Arena, that played host to the same show the night before. Having an opportunity to compare the two venues one night apart, Oracle Arena now appears vast by comparison. The stage for Muse extended nearly to the half court line at Sleep Train Arena, and it felt much, much smaller. Obviously, that can be a plus in a concert setting, as everything was pushed closer to the stage, and the upper level was all closed off. A staffer said that they estimated selling about 6,500 tickets for this show.
One issue I have with the venue is that they don’t allow use of their parking lot until one hour before doors, which makes it problematic for fans who want to line up early for a show (necessitating a drop off or parking about a half a mile away at nearby retail and walking).
I had a media pass for the Oakland show, but last night for Sacramento attended as a fan, with a general admission (floor) ticket, so I made my way into the venue at 5:00 for doors at 6:00, and there were maybe 150 people in line at that point.
Things were managed very well, and this was actually my first experience with “paperless” tickets, which is employed to curb ticket scalping (a debate for another article). Basically as you are checked by security, rather than presenting a paper ticket, you provide the credit card used to purchase the ticket online – they swipe it in a machine, and into the venue once you are confirmed.
Even with the large number of people in line, me and my friends ended up equivalent to second row, on Matt’s side of the stage. So I was excited to experience the entire show from the pit, in that at Oracle Arena the night before I did photography in the crew pit in front of the stage for the first four songs, and then moved up into the back corner of the stadium to sit with friends, so had a more distant/removed perspective for the balance of that show.
While that afforded an opportunity to enjoy the stage spectacle, the band members (in true physical form at least) appeared very small. Of course, being in the pit right in front of the stage, you are focused on the band, not so much the monitors, so it is a very different experience (and am glad I was able to experience both first hand). One thing that was most apparent to me though, is that this second night in Sacramento went by so fast, it was all over before I knew it, which wasn’t the case at all in Oakland. I’m not sure if it had more to do with where I was standing, or because it was unfamiliar and then something already experienced the second time around.
Both were incredible shows though, and again, I can’t recommend enough getting out to see this tour.
Band of Skulls
- Russell Marsden (guitar, vocals)
- Emma Richardson (bass, vocals)
- Matt Hayward (drums)
British alternative rock band Band of Skulls opened the night for Muse, and their music is a great match-up for Muse and getting things started.
The band released their second studio album, Sweet Sour, last year. They did a short set of about six songs. A three piece band, guitarist Russell Mardsen and bass player Emma Richardson trade duties on vocals, though Russell took the lead on most of the songs.
I’m so glad I caught this show the second time, as I only was able to see the first three songs in Oakland, as part of my photography for that show, and was backstage for the remainder of their set. Last night, being in the audience, I had a chance to enjoy their full set, and it was fantastic. Really a great band, and I’m going to pick up their latest album and I’m sure I will be won over by them, as the live version of their music is awesome.
Though I was not shooting with professional photography gear this second night, I did fire off a few shots with my pocket consumer camera, in an effort to capture some moments from this specific show (click any image for higher resolution):
- Matthew Bellamy (lead vocals, lead guitar, piano, keyboards, keytar)
- Christopher Wolstenholme (bass, vocals, keyboards, rhythm guitar, harmonica)
- Dominic Howard (drums, percussion, synthesizers, sampling)
So pretty much everything I wrote in my Oracle Arena review holds true for this show the next night at Sleep Train Arena. But for the benefit of those who may have attended the latter, I will share those same thoughts again further below, along with some additional photos taken at this specific show with my pocket camera (though the professional photos I t0ok in Oakland are much, much better in quality and proximity to the band, obviously).
Specific to Sleep Train Arena, I had the pleasure of enjoying the show from the floor, quite near the front (effectively the second row standing), amid a really great crowd of fans.
The band really succeeds in changing things up… not just the set list but what they are doing on stage at any given moment as well. So it was all the same, yet different and customized to this crowd.
Here is the set list unique to Sleep Train Arena last night:
- The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
- Supermassive Black Hole
- Panic Station
- Knights of Cydonia
- Monty Jam
- Follow Me
- Liquid State
- Undisclosed Desires
- Time Is Running Out
- Stockholm Syndrome
- The 2nd Law: Isolated System
The differences between Oakland and Sacramento… Oakland had a net two more songs overall. So unique to Oakland was “Animals”, “Sunburn”, “Plug In Baby”, and “New Born”. Unique to Sacramento was “Explorers” and “Stockholm Syndrome”.
From this point forward in the review are my thoughts from the prior review (so if you’ve already read that review, you can skip to the (non-pro in this case) photos from the Sacramento gig, further below).
One of the most interesting things about Muse is that they are somehow nearly universally recognized as a “cool” band, by people who are fans of all variety of genres of music. There’s just something about them… for me, they come across as the musical equivalent of Quentin Tarantino, except in the pop and rock music world. Because I have to imagine that the band are true and dedicated students of all music, because they have an uncanny ability to identify unique and compelling ideas and sounds and concepts and twist them into something all their own.
I can’t believe all this musical genius comes from nothing, and they seem to have an innate sense of what sounds both compelling and unique, tried and true yet reconfigured into a different… something… altogether – something experimental but with cues and fundamentals that are somehow familiar, but maybe from another world or dimension all the same. Like some band from the far future, coming back to our time to show us how its all changed and evolved into something we can instantly, impulsively appreciate and connect with, but never fully understand.
Though the band formed in 1994, their increasing mainstream appeal came much later outside of their home country of England.
The band has always been pretty prolific, and as time has gone on, the rest of the world seems more interested in taking the ride and catching up.
While each album has become both more sophisticated as well as more assured in evolving their own unique sound, it is my own personal opinion that they simply get better and better with each album.
As noted in my 2012 Year In Review, I rated their sixth studio album, The 2nd Law, as one of my own top ten albums released last year.
Since a lot of the songs from that album were played last night, I’m going to borrow that section of my year end review here, to share my love of The 2nd Law…
Muse have increasingly made music that feels like it is made to rock stadiums, and with The 2nd Law, it’s hard to imagine them pushing that any further. The opener, “Supremacy”, comes across as a Muse anthem on Queen and James Bond theme steroids, with a tinge of electronic guitar distorted Mighty Mouse theme song in the mix. But it’s really a bold statement, and if this doesn’t make people stop with the Radiohead comparisons (which I’ve never gotten at all), I’m not sure what will.
With no more “up” to go, the album drops down into some kind of dubstep dance track with the first single, “Madness”, which is an awesome song in that it shows how far the band can stretch their trademark sound and explore different corners of popular music. Muse just sounds like Muse, and they don’t seem to be interested in just recreating past hits, but delving into new territory.
The whole album is like a giant alternative electronic rock orchestra, or the soundtrack to some film that can’t be made for another decade or two.
Matt Bellamy isn’t the most versatile male vocalist in music today, but what he lacks in range and gymnastics he more than makes up for with character and emotion and vulnerability. Nor does he have the need to sing over every moment, allowing the songs to breathe on their own, and revealing their innovative compositions and sounds, as well as both harsh and soft moments to come alive and build.
My one regret in my year end review is that I did not count “Panic Station” from the album as one of my top ten songs of the year as well. Had I more time to listen to the album before year end, not only would “Panic Station” made that list as well, it would have been near the top. It’s really a fantastic song that blends so many different genres and sounds, I just can’t get enough of it – sheer genius. I’m hopeful that it will be released as an official single in 2013 so that I can place it in this years list, but more because its for sure (again, in my opinion), one of their best songs from any album that they’ve released throughout their career.
So, getting back to these two concerts in Oakland and Sacramento, they were both really quite flawless, and left me wanting for nothing. The guys are simply amazing to watch as they recreate their complex art on stage, and make it look quite easy as well.
The sonic awesomeness that they deliver is incredibly matched by the spectacle of their high tech stage, which compliments the tone and theme of the songs perfectly. Genius music matched with impeccable and inspiring design, that also suits their playing style perfectly.
The band is full of surprises though, as they have so much electronic and synthesizer and keyboard and effects built into their music, that you would think much of it would be pre-recorded, but they do an amazing job recreating it on stage. Further to their credit, they change up their set list each night – even with all of the work that goes into the displays and what is going on with the stage.
Below are some photos of Muse performing on stage (click any image for higher resolution). Please see the Oakland review for pro-quality photos.