Friday, July 27, 2007

Over the Top

Fuji Rock 2007: Part 5
Muse


We were crammed front of stage for an hour enjoying the occasional sip of tequila and absinthe as we anticipated Muse’s arrival. We shared our snacks with some cool women from Tokyo who knew everything about Muse, The Cure, and just about any other British band we could think of.

Muse started where most bands finish, OVER THE TOP, with a no-holds-barred performance of their vast, portentous epic Knights of Cydonia (named, er, after a region on the northern hemisphere of Mars).

“There’s no way they’re going to top that,” I thought, but they did, and with ease.

After a brief interlude while the guitarist removes a swarm of insects from his underpants - now that's what I call suffering for your art - Muse’s set proceeds full tilt, and it's sometimes difficult to tell where one song ends and the next begins. Their loony songs portray a fractured, unstable world beset by corruption, dystopia, metaphysical angst, and conspiracy theories, the usual low key stuff.

In case you can't catch the lyrics (everyone down front knows them by heart), they're displayed above the band as part of a stunning computerized presentation. "NO ONE's going to TAKE ME...ALIVE!" screams leader Mathew Bellamy, and it's hard not to sing along even though I haven't got a clue what he's on about. The whole show's preposterous and completely irresistible.

With his nutty beliefs in asteroid collisions and robot power, Bellamy is clearly off his rocker. But what a guitar player. Each screeching solo (he has a Kaoss Pad installed just behind the bridge of his guitar - KEWWL!) - is accompanied by Bellamy tossing back his head as he digs his axe into his crotch and hilariously points the neck phallically heavenwards.

At one point he rattles off a guitar solo, flings his axe to a roadie, casually strolls to the piano to peel off a stunning Rachmaninoff-esque flourish then moseys back upfront to catch the guitar and finish the song. Great stuff.

The set ends with rock overkill as Bellamy sends his guitar flying and knocks over his cabinets in a petulant rage after his guitar technician has failed to satisfy his every desire. His band comically follow suit as drums and bass are halfheartedly trashed.

Muse's jaw-dropping visuals and Wagnerian fusion of rock and classical romanticism were outrageous. As the strains of New Order predictably fill the arena, it occurs to me that maybe British musicians are the only ones mad enough to try this kind of spectacular bombast and actually pull it off. The Cure are up next, and they'll be lucky if they can top this.

Snack: tequila, absinthe, long-forgotten peanuts I found in my backpack. 5 out of 10. (I'm not that crazy about peanuts.)

1 comment:

Grl in Japan said...

Oh, I was there too. Yes, Muse were great!