Muse heats up Chicago’s United Center on Drones Tour stop

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Muse at the United Center Jan. 13, 2016

If there’s one thing Muse like more than overblown rock anthems, it’s being larger than life. They didn’t fail to deliver on this when played the United Center last Wednesday. The arena was near capacity as seats and spots near the new center stage were flooded with fans. Glancing at the catwalks on either side of the stage and rafters filled with globes and lights, you wondered what tricks the band had up their sleeve this time around.

The opening band X-Ambassadors actually weren’t that bad. I wasn’t looking forward to them since I detest their Jeep Cherokee jingle “Renegades.” But their other songs like “Loveless” and “Jungle” were exciting and energetic, instead of bland like their current hit. They also had a great stage presence. Singer Sam Harris bounced, skipped, leaped across the stage without missing a note. He even surprised the crowd with some hot sax playing. My favorite was keyboardist Casey Harris who was literally dancing like no one was watching. He just looked like he was having so much fun dancing along to every song, no matter how slow or fast it was.

After waiting for about 20 minutes for stage setup, a group of Stormtrooper like robots with glowing blue visors came out and stood at each corner in front of the stage. No explanation. They just stood there being menacing while “Straight Outta Compton” blasted over the soundsystem. It was one of most bizarre moments: robots? Compton? More like Straight Outta Devon if we’re talking about Muse. It really freaked me out. I thought they were going to hold the band hostage as part of the show. Soon after the band took over the stage and launched into the fiery “Psycho.” It’s not one of my favorite songs from the new LP, but it definitely packed a bigger punch live. This was followed by “Dead Inside,” where Matt’s voice seemed a little tired, and “Hysteria” with a “Black in Black” outro riff. And no, the robots were not still standing in the crowd.

After some noodling around on the guitar, the pulsing intro of “Map of the Problemaptique” filled the arena. And I freaked out. It’s one of my favorite Muse songs and they didn’t play it on their last tour. I closed my eyes and let Matt’s otherworldly falsetto wash over me. By this point his voice warmed up and there were no more hangups. Another highlight was the damning anthem “Apocalypse Please.” Matt sat at his glowing piano that came out of the stage and crooned about the end of the world. There were rumors flying the band added the track to the setlist, but I never expected to hear it during the show. It’s another track that made me fall in love with Muse and it’s more haunting live.

Their stage set up was breathtaking and stunning as usual. Instead of pyramids made of tvs, thin projector screens covered the stage at different points and displayed various intricate designs, such as member’s silhouettes disintegrating to stars settling around the crowd. But the most impressive involved the creation and domination of a giant robot. During “The Handler” her piercing blue eyes took over the LED screen and her twitching hands controlled Matt and Chris while light simulate the puppet strings. Plus, this song sounds phenomenal live. Somehow Matt made the guitar squeal and bleed even better than the record. It’s the type of song that commands the stage and when Matt crooned during the hook, it gave you fucking chills.

Once they got into the groove, each of the members were on point with singing and performance. Matt was particularly sassy, making faces at the crowd, strutting with his guitar, and even causing some destruction. During one track (maybe “Supermassive Black Hole” or “Reapers”) Matt threw his guitar, broke the head, kept playing, and flipped it while grabbing another guitar. Of course the crowd went nuts screaming his name. Fan favorite “Starlight” prompted a massive singalong, which put a goofy smile on Matt’s face. It also saw the return of the black Hullaballoons that exploded with confetti. “Madness” was sexy and sultry as ever and it was surprising to hear considering his break up with Kate Hudson. Though I already heard “Resistance” on their last tour, it was great to pump your fist and chant with Matt once again.

After more favorites, like “Time is Running Out,” “Uprising,” and “Undisclosed Desires,” with Matt wearing red glowing glasses, Muse launched into ten-minute opus “The Globalist.” As people watched the stage light up and glow, a Reaper drone was unleashed, shining light on the faces of audience. Everyone pointed to the sky and followed its movements wondering where its going to land. Apparently, the band were supposed to unleash flying globe drones, but for some reason they weren’t used at this show. Still, it was a great surprise and reminded you why Muse’s shows are always a new experience.

The setlist leaned heavily on the new material, but they played the best songs from Drones like “Mercy” and “Reapers.” I wasn’t expecting the “The Globalist,” but once it got to the good fast part, it lit up the arena. For the final song, Chris came out and played “The Man With Harmonica” intro meaning it was time for “Knights of Cydonia.” It was a bit predictable, but it was exciting to hear nonetheless. You just waited for that moment when Matt starts wailing to pump your fist in the air and chant along with him. The best part was during the bridge when everyone started shouting “No one’s going to take me allllive” while the words flashed above on the LED screen. The song ended with a shower of confetti and cheers. Each member waved, said their goodbyes, and left the crowd hoping for just one more song. It didn’t happen. The concert was a bit short and sweet and while I still would’ve loved to hear something from their second album, it was still a phenomenal show. Muse are still one of the best live bands around and I can’t wait for the next time they come to the city.

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