this was my first time officially shooting a show for a real publication!!! and it was shooting MUUUUSSSEEE. literal dream come true. (you can check out some of my shots at The Pop Break – I have more below here, as well.)
this show was for the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City, which is cool af; Muse always knows what’s up
setlist was fire – into all the songs here, don’t care what haters say
Map of the Problematique!!!!
for real, getting to shoot this – even though it was a complex layout – was exciting and thrilling and scary and freaking awesome
I was originally supposed to shoot right in front of the stage, but then it was switched to just in front of the tech booth. eeek.
it rained before the show and for the the first couple of songs. not the end of the world, but I had a brand new lens on my camera and that was….stressful.
nothing else because Muse is flawless; Matt and Chris and Dom for life.
(d) overall thoughts
Getting to see Muse during this little summer tour has been one of my favorite things. To see a band that normally goes all in, puts out, and brings things to the next level with every performance, it’s so refreshing to see them in another light. Relatively stripped back stage design, level lights, and nothing but pure tunes in Central Park is alllll you need.
Matt, Chris, and Dom sounded fierce as usual, and everything was glowing as the sun set over the river to the west. The crowd was a bit wet and I had snuck up on the left side after shooting in the back to find a tucked-away corner of the pit. To hear songs I’ve loved for over a decade in Central Park surrounded by friends gave me such a warm feeling inside. Dusk quickly became night and the setlist quickly evolved into older classics like “Hysteria” and “Map of the Problematique.”
Even though the setlist was nearly identical to the previous show only two nights earlier, everything felt familiar and unique in the new setting. The Central Park crowd was in high spirits, tightly packed into each other. I saw older fans and even kids lining some of the barricade, everyone joyful and glowing under the soft light. I’ll never forget this show, and not just because I got to shoot one of my favorite bands. I’ll always love Muse because they always remain themselves; they transform with every new album and a lot of people give them shit, but I get what they’re doing. They’re just Matt, Chris, and Dom. They’re having a good time, entertaining the crowd, and never fail to forget how a single song can completely turn everything around.
Bottom line: This show was iconic. The intimacy of everyone jam-packed into pockets of jumping masses made this night in the park so memorable. Moving throughout the back of the pit to capture great shots, as well as moving up close to feel myself in the music only proved that – no matter the setting – Muse shows up. And while not every band can say that, Muse can.
Starting out in the 10th row at the beginning of the show and ending up in the 2nd row by the 3rd song just by pure crowd energy and movement = magic
knowing that a band that uses production so, so heavily can still shine in a tiny, stripped-down venue without any production whatsoever, my god
got Matt Bellamy’s guitar pick…from the literal sky out of nowhere
I have never sweat so much in my entire life, I swear to God – Webster Hall had never been so damn hot and there were so many people, I looked like I had jumped into a pool
(d) overall thoughts
This show was magic. I couldn’t even believe I was there. It was one of those shows that felt like everyone on Earth was trying to going to, and Webster Hall is so small and it was just crazy. Tickets were will call only, so all our names were on a list and it was honestly unbelievable to see my name on that piece of paper. God, what a feeling.
As I mentioned previously, Muse is one of my all-time favorite bands and I’ve seem them many times over the years. But I’d never seen them like this. A band so strongly associated with huge lights, sounds, screens, smoke, cameras, and all that jazz totally taken away just to have three dudes on stage playing massive songs – the only thing that remained massive in that small venue. The new songs were amazing to me, the older songs were such a treat – each moment felt like a string of gifts connecting to the next melody. What a time.
To put a total cap on the whole event, as I’m standing there after the show has ended, still trying to process everything that happened, a flash of yellow falls from the sky in Webster hall and lands a foot away from me. I divebomb on it in my prototypical ungraceful way, and my God – it’s Matt Bellamy’s used guitar pick. Where did it come from? How did it end up 20 feet from the stage in an open arena where I’m looking like a mess? Don’t know, don’t care. That’s magic.
Bottom Line: There’s something so strangely emotional about the impact this show had on me, and there’s so much more I could say about it, but all that really matters is that it was incredible to me.
that setlist – “Map of the Problematique” (!!) and “Apocalypse Please” (!!) in particular
the 360-degree stage set-up and other-worldly production, my god
being front row for the first time ever seeing Muse – unforgettable as all hell
the literal DRONES flying around inside the venue – ain’t no time for subtlety here
quote of the night from my friend, who was seeing Muse for the first time: “Matt Bellamy could win American Idol!”
Chris Wolstenholme’s general existence
getting Dom’s drumstick (!!!)
they didn’t play my all-time favorite Muse song “Stockholm Syndrome” or my favorite song from the new album “Revolt” 😦
drone warfare can be, uh, a touchy subject
(d) overall thoughts
Wow, do I love Muse. For some reason, the band has attracted a particular brand of haters over the last decade or so, which never cease to amaze me because I literally cannot fathom how anyone could hate a band that has seriously redefined the idea of spectacle and performance in rock ‘n’ roll. I’ve seen Muse a lot – a couple of times for every album since 2006’s Blackholes and Revelations – and every time has been a capital E “Experience.” This one at the Barclays Center proved they’re not holding back or slowing down on monumental stage design or stadium-size production levels, but aiming even higher to perform and impress. With a huge, rotating 360-degree stage, two side stage wings with an accompanying runway, a dozen or so real-life flying and glowing drones, and one inflatable fighter jet, Muse dismiss symbolic subtlety and quiet political commentary for the best damn circus in town you’ve ever seen.
Matt Bellamy and Chris Wolstenholme were all over the stage(s), playing glowing guitars with equal parts power and grace, and damn, it was so much fun to watch. Dom Howard, though stationary, never failed to amaze from his spinning drumming stool. Though somewhat of a minority, I enjoyed their latest album Drones and found myself wrapped up in the world that Muse created in their music – presumably the one we’re living in now, only with more paranoia, violence, and impending doom. But also – hope! It’s incredible to think that just hours before the show I lamented to one of my friends how much I would love to hear an older classic like “Map of the Problematique” only for them to actually play it! I always think, when it comes down to it all, Muse is comprised of just three dudes – a guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer – but their sound can fill arenas on par with full orchestras. Each note, guitar wail, and lyric feels so fully-embodied and emotional in such a real way. So many moments during this show reminded me of that.
With very little to complain about, I have to admit that perhaps the only drawback to the literal inclusion of drones and military warfare via screens and the occasional soldier walking around the stage (seriously), was not the inherent heavy-handedness of the political message, but the insensitivity of the act; a couple of English dudes projecting “My father was killed by drones” and “my sister was hit by a drone” can feel slightly disingenuous even though that wasn’t the band’s intent. Muse have become a bit of a “message band” over the years, and I actually quite like that, but I never want my friends to feel uncomfortable at a show and a few of them were. Regardless – in my opinion – the performance itself was enough of a statement for the validity of modern day rock ‘n’ roll than any verbose political statement might’ve been.
Bottom line: Muse are some of the best damn musicians around – true masters of emotional performance art and experiential music – and I will always stop everything to see them perform, especially when they’ve got something to say.