Muse January 9, Mandalay Bay Events Center.
If a Muse concert were a celebrity, it would be Gwyneth Paltrow—which is to say it can sound utterly ridiculous and be laughably pretentious, but hey, it sure as hell looks good. Saturday’s setup at Mandalay Bay Events Center—which drew a two-thirds-full crowd, no thanks to last December’s technological postponement—rivalled those from previous gigs at the same venue with an intimacy-maximizing, 360-degree stage (with two short catwalks that extended lengthwise to smaller, ancillary stages); a full complement of sheer projection curtains and hi-def screens, which displayed either the band or Asimovian/Orwellian porn; and nine transparent, spherical drones that occasionally cruised the arena. It’s as if Muse’s bombastic, overly arpeggiated space operas were made just for such a stage production.
Its Drones tour supports last year’s album of the same name, a stinker of an effort that has one notable strength: Muse’s tiresome them-against-us narrative is actually specific enough to latch onto—humans will become the drones if we’re not careful—and the concert hardware and concept syncs up perfectly. A shame about its songs, though. They fail to meet the high melodic standards the band has established since 2003’s global breakthrough, Absolution, and the six on Saturday’s setlist meant six chances to grab a beer or piss one out.
There were still flashes of Muse doing what it does best: exacting, tuneful, stomping rockers that might just allow you to drown out whatever vague paranoia and apocalyptic fever dreams frontman Matt Bellamy is trilling out. All three band members (plus touring synth/guitar man Morgan Nicholls) effortlessly cranked out “Hysteria” and “Map of the Problematique,” both pummeling prog-pop delights. “Madness” proved that a minimal and restrained Muse can still be effective and affecting. And even the Wagnerian sci-fi of “Knights of Cydonia” was welcome sensory overload with its galloping climb, venue-quaking climax and fog-enhanced lighting kamikaze—a sound-and-vision spectacle demonstrating that, for all its faults, Muse has earned its place in the arena-rock pantheon. –Mike Prevatt