Saturday, March 6, 2010
What is bigger than "epic"?
Somewhat recently (in the last year) i have become acquainted with the band Muse (no, not acquainted with the actual band, silly - their music). I've liked some stuff, loved some stuff, been apathetic about some stuff. I appreciated them for the most part, but didn't feel compelled to spend discretionary funds on them. That is, until i got The Resistance out of the library last month. HOLY CRAP! I love, love, love this album. Love it with a burning passion of love. I almost crashed my work van listening to it on an overnight in New Jersey - no joke. The odd blend of musical styles speaks to my own eclectic musical tastes. Some of the tempos are exactly my natural internal rhythms. I'm sure you've all experienced the sensation of instantly connecting with a piece of music; it is unexplainable, but profound. What made the connection even better was that the CD came with a "making of" DVD. The only thing i love more than music is musicians. The process of creation astounds me; i hear music inside of my head and even dream in music, but lack the skills by which to bring that sound into the world. Watching this band's process was amazing. The CD is richly layered and symphonic and it was cool to get a glimpse of how it came together. I was talking to fTM Matt about it and he said, Muse doesn't do anything short of epic. You have to see the Absolution live DVD. They are really a live band. I was frankly dubious. I mean, this music is really, really layered and produced. I found it hard to believe that anyone could do justice to it live. But Matt is a musician himself and i trust his opinions on music. So i looked for the DVD at the library, but they didn't have it and you know me - i stick to my budget and don't buy anything i haven't already read, heard or seen. Oh well. Then, about 4 weeks ago, I heard that Muse was coming in concert to DC. I was tempted, but really didn't want to go to down to the Patriot Center during rush hour after work. Plus, concert tickets are not in the budget. Oh well. Then, 3 weeks ago, I found out that there was a Baltimore concert date. It was right downtown, less than 10 blocks from my office. I've never gone to a major concert venue by myself, but i have to do at least one new thing per month this year so i bit the bullet and took money from savings and bought a ticket. It was only 15 days until the concert so there weren't a lot of seats left to choose from so i opted for cheap and nose-bleed, but dead center. Wednesday after work i changed my clothes, drove to the arena, found parking and walked into the venue by myself. It was a bit unnerving as i am not a big fan of going to public places alone, but i wasn't gonna miss this opportunity (even if it meant braving that scary clown by the elevators). The stage was pretty stripped down with three huge speaker towers in the middle and 2 elevated wings (not pictured). In this picture, it is set up for the opening act, Silversun Pickups. They were very enthusiastic. I can't report much about the music besides that it was loud. Someone needs to step away from the distortion pedals and lay off the reverb. 'nuff said. Roadies broke down and removed their instruments and then set up and tested four mikes - 2 on the stage and 1 on each wing platform. Okay, the guitarist and bassist will obviously be moving around. I love watching stage setup; as a performer I know how much of the flow of the show depends on your preparation. Time passed and no drums appeared. hmmmm... I kept watching and waiting for drums, but nothing. I texted Matt about the proceedings and at one point he wrote, Let me know if it is a. epic or b. the most epic thing you have ever seen. Epic, huh? I don't know how it is gonna be epic when there isn't even a drum kit yet, i thought. Eventually i saw some drum pieces wheeled out in between, but sort of behind the speaker towers. Okay, maybe the center tower isn't really a tower and it will raise or lower for the drums to be pushed out. Wait, are those timpanis? More waiting. Still no more instruments appear. Wait, is that a tiny light behind a tower? Wait, is that a really tiny light inside of a tower. Huh? Lights go down in the arena and the crowd starts screaming. The 3 towers light up like buildings and then video is projected on them of people walking up stairs, like business drones going to work. (all pics are crappy, but were mostly taken so that i could remember what happened; clicking to make them bigger will help with some of them). Hmmmmm... maybe they aren't really speaker towers, i think just a split second before the covers drop to reveal the band inside of them SQUEAL! Each member had his own tower with video projection above and below. Cool doesn't really capture it. They opened with "Uprising" which is the first hit from this album and followed with "Resistance" which is the current song on the radio. It was a bold move; most bands save hits for partway through the first set, the end of the last set or even the encore. Not these guys. They pulled no punches and opened with what people came to hear. The only other band i've ever seen do that is U2 (who Muse opened for a few years ago; maybe they picked up some good tour tips). At some point the towers lowered so that the guitarist and bassist could move out to their front mikes or go over to the wings I owe Matt a huge apology for ever doubting him. The music, the sound, the lights, the effects- everything was truly epic. There was no sense of moderation or holding back. The band gave everything they had on every song and the show was designed to keep you breathless. Even though this how for away i was from the stage i felt like i was in the middle of a colossal event. I had considered getting floor tickets, but decided against it since being 5'3'' means that all you see is the center of some dude's back if you can't manage to get to the front row. I'm kinda glad that i went for the high seats now cause it afforded me a view of the entire spectacle. The singer not only plays guitar, but he is a piano virtuoso so at one point all the lights go out and when they come back on the band is situated on their three towers, except now Matthew's had a baby grand piano (or maybe it was a grand and i was just really far away) that he played for 2 songs. Did i mention that the inside of the lid was wired with lights that were triggered by the keys so that they flashed as he played? Yep. And later, the drummer had some bright flashers that were triggered by the toms so they activated as he played. Speaking of the drummer, at one point he and the bassist did a great rhythm breakdown together. It was musically fabulous, but it was the spectacle that nearly undid me: Chris the bassist is back to back with Dom the drummer, playing as the drum kit revolves and the tower raises and lowers with color real-time video of them playing above and below. Really, people, my little head almost popped right off its shoulders. And for those of you who need even more stimulation, HUGE eyeball balloons were released into the audience where they batted around until one by one they popped, releasing clouds of red confetti. I've been to some really, really good concerts, but this was superlative. I really don't know what is bigger than epic, but the Muse show was whatever that word might be. When i got home that night i was so drained that i fell into bed, but was so keyed up that i couldn't sleep. I assume that it is the feeling that causes people to use drugs. I think every nerve in my body was tingling. You know that i am frugal, but honestly if i found out that Muse was playing again anywhere in the vicinity of me, i would pay to go there and see this show again. I might even consider anything east of the Mississippi to be in the vicinity of me. The only drawback of the entire experience would be that after this work the next day and the real world in general seemed a bit dull.