Muse's bombast and light spectacle converts an ambivalent writer

Photo by Brad Keefe

It's deadline day. My brain's fried. Here are a few quick, semi-coherent thoughts on last night's Muse concert at OSU's The Schottenstein Center:

1. I'm not a big Muse fan. In fact, prior to last night's show at The Schott, I might have even said I wasn't really a fan at all. I didn't actively dislike the trio; they just never clicked for me in the way they did for so many of their passionate fans. That started to change once I began singing Muse's presently ubiquitous single, "Madness," with my own last name replacing the titular refrain. So, it went something like this: "mmmmm-ma-ma-ma-mac-in-tosh." Yea, it's pretty lame, but I enjoyed annoying the s--- out of my friends with it all night. It's not much, but it was the first tangible sign of pleasure I had ever really received from Muse.

2. Then, a Muse-tomic bomb struck the Schott. That's really the only way I know how to describe the mushroom cloud of lights that exploded from the stage and ate every dark inch around it until the entire arena was engulfed in brightness. At times, I wished for sunglasses. The entire spectacle, including the shifting alien spaceship video pyramid that descended from heaven the ceiling, was badass, though. So, basically, even when I found myself a little disinterested in the songs I didn't know and/or like, there was something pretty for my mush of a brain to gawk at.

3. Speaking of bombast, my previous hesitation to fully embrace Muse partly comes down to this epic sense of scale. Sometimes, while listening to Muse, I feel like my head might burst at any minute from the grand sweep of Matthew Bellamy's falsetto alone.

4. However, as for the actual songs, this was the longest period of time I'd ever spent with any of Muse's material. I kept searching for influences and connectors in an attempt to contextualize Muse's sound, but it was a vain attempt. There were strokes of metal (nu-metal even), Queen, dubstep, classical, Radiohead, The Who, etc. The list just kept piling up, until finally I gave up and decided they sound, simply, like Muse. There's really no other way to say it. Most impressively was how cohesive these disparate pieces sounded in a live setting. I was also equally struck by how effing tight the band sounded. They're professionals, so one should expect nothing less, but still. I walked away sold to at least explore Muse's musical canon a little more closely.

5. Finally, there's Muse opener Dead Sara, which added two my tally of bands that won me over last night. To use broad descriptors, the L.A. outfit sounds like what would happen if a girl fronted Rage Against the Machine's riff-heavy, guitar-noodling rock and shredded her face off with bursts of primal screams and melody instead of rapping. There were also elements of Deftones and garage rock that were present throughout. The rather straight-forward rock 'n' roll was a welcome lead-in to Muse's more electronic-leaning musical pulse.