Thursday, December 16, 2010

Muse December 2010

Few books in my life have had a more profound effect on me than George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. I read it for the first time years ago and wasn’t able to sleep for a week afterwards. Having read it a few time since, I find that its one of the best books I’ve ever read, but also one of my least favourite. A hugely confronting read, I was apprehensive to say the least when I heard that Muse was releasing an album that was loosely themed around Nineteen Eighty-Four. Apprehensive, but not remotely surprised. With their already hysterical sound, I wasn’t sure how it would play out – but The Resistance is a good album. Not the best they’ve ever produced, but good. And most importantly, the music is big enough to carry the themes of hopelessness, mass control and surveillance. That creepy Big Brother feeling you carry with you for weeks after reading Nineteen Eighty-Four was perfectly conveyed at the Muse concert last night in Melbourne – at least when you could actually go beyond the screaming masses of 14 year of girls who got lost on their way to a Justin Beiber concert.

Having seen Muse many, many times (at least ten, but I think last night was thirteen for me) and given that I felt The Resistance was not their strongest material, I decided not to shell out $120 for a ticket to see them this time around. I had seen them at the start of the year at Big Day Out (their set was the only saving grace for an abysmal festival and day). As the concerts approached though, I quickly changed my mind and snapped up two tickets on eBay for $60 each. Bargain. And so I headed off to Rod Laver Arena to visit one of my favourite people – Matt Bellamy.

Here’s what they played
Supermassive Black Hole
Butterflies and Hurricanes
United States of Eurasia
Feeling Good
Undisclosed Desires
Time is Running Out
Plug in Baby

Exogenesis: Symphony Part 1 (Overture)
Stockholm Syndrome
Knights of Cydonia

This was a solid set – although I felt for $120 a ticket (even though we didn’t pay that) they could have played for a bit longer. Given their back catalogue, and the fact that this was a very mainstream set, I though an hour and 40 minutes playing time was fairly poor. We would have liked to have seen a few more songs from Showbiz and Absolution. Last time I saw them they have played Cave, Apocalypse Please, The Small Print, Sober and Showbiz which are all amazing songs and would have been well received last night.

I guess now that they play stadiums they have to play to the crows which means they won’t play anything other than their singles. Sad face.

But now onto the good news.

Muse are a really, really good live band. Their stadium shows are amazing. Matt and Dom are really incredible, talented musicians in their own right. They wear amazing outfits! (last night Chris was wearing an orange stripy suit and Matt a shiny silver suit) They are lovely and love Melbourne. Matt plays a variety of interesting, custom made instruments.

They are really great.

It’s funny that a band who are so obviously left-wing (Matt once famously declaring that he thought Sept 11 was an ‘inside job’) have such a huge commercial following. We were surrounded by a real mix of fans – screaming 14 year old girls behind us (annoying) and older 30-somthings on either side. For the first time ever I was seated for the show – a new experience for me – and I think its indicative of how old I am getting that I sat there thinking to myself “Hmmm, this is very comfortable and oh my! What a great view! And no dickheads bumping into me… How nice”.

I was glad we were sitting as they bought their massive stage show with them – there was lots to look at. They opened the set with each band member sitting in giant towers. I could never describe it properly and my photos are awful, so I stole some from the world wide web. Spectacular.

As they moved to the floor after a few songs Matt jumped out and started charging around the stage in his silver suit looking like a tiny little spaceman. Very cute. Lots of knee kicks, playing the guitar behind his head and end-of-the-world wailing. Awesome. Each time I see Muse play, Matt’s vocal quality gets better and better – he can really sing. Amazing.

Highlights included the guitar during undisclosed desires (wiki: Manson guitars have made a guitar for Bellamy called the "Keytarcaster", it is a guitar with strings but no pickups and a two octave keyboard built into the body of the guitar), during which Dom also came to the front of the stage and played there. Also loved it when they released the inflatable balls as they usually do at the end of the set – they did so during Plug in Baby last night – but with a twist this time. The balls were actually huge, white eyeballs, which was a creepy nod towards the Orwellian themes that dictated the show.

I always love watching Matt play the piano solo in Butterflies and Hurricanes and last night he performed flawlessly as always. I took a video of it – it’s a bit fuzzy where those douchebags behind us were screaming, but ok I think!

The lighting and stage set up was incredible. I guess that’s the advantage of doing huge stadium shows that cost a fortune to go along to – you can do amazing things. I found the sound quality to be good – not amazing, but certainly not bad either. And considering some of the shows I’ve seen at Rod Laver, that was a good result.

Seeing Muse always leaves me feeling a bit weird the following day. I think the Absolution album probably takes me back to another time and place more strongly than any other piece of music I know. For me, it evokes a huge sense of belonging and self worth, and sends me away from the world in which I live to a whole other place. Last night delivered as usual for me – each song from Absolution made me feel more and more human (after a shit 2010 frankly) and watching them perform made me feel like I had come home in so many ways. Corny, but true. They are an amazing band.

I know they have a lot of haters, but you can’t deny that they are a hugely talented bunch of people who have found a winning formula, both commercially and musically. I understand the hysteria of their music is not for everyone, but if you can look past that you will see a mind-blowing act who will continue to define live music for many years to come.

Love Muse. Love life. xo

Monday, December 13, 2010

Meredith 2010!

Another Meredith, another awesome weekend. Over the years I have come to love Meredith like a third home (after Melbourne & London) and each year it delivers another set of good times, wonderful memories and incredible music.

To say I was excited to see Custard and Neil Finn is probably one of the biggest understatements of the year. I was EXCITED. However they didn't make an appearance until Saturday afternoon, so what else was happening before that?

For starters, for the first time ever, we were only half an hour late leaving St Kilda. Normally we end up getting into the Meredith line around 10am, but this year we were there at just after 9am with what felt like every single other ticket holder. I think the warnings of camps shut down and long waits to get in encouraged lots of people to come early, just like us. Oh well, the more the merrier. We ended up in a great camping spot and got set up.

PUTA MADRE BROTHERS opened the music on Friday afternoon. These guys were lots of fun! Great accents, great show and two of them were super cute. WIN.

JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD played later on in the night and we really good. Their sounds was totally raw - just the two of them (as someone commented to me, 'Not much of a Brotherhood eh?') and they fluctuated between early sounding Nirvana and Kings of Leon. The singer looked like a King of Leon too. The drummer was awesome though - he keep jumping up to yell into the microphone while he was playing. Fun times.

CLOUD CONTROL played a solid set with a few well known hits. They were fun, even though they looked like they were 12 years old. Did I mention I am getting old???

LITTLE RED played a fun fun FUN set at Meredith two years ago (the wet year - remember that one?) so I was looking forward to this set. Unfortunately they have caught the 'Eskimo Joe' syndrome and turned into massive douchebags (AKA I am too cool for school now that I've achieved some commercial success and despite this being a festival set I am going to play all the obscure shit off my new album). They played a grand total of ONE song (maybe two) from their hugely popular debut album. I was really disappointed that they didn't go for the hits.

C.W. STONEKING played a chilled out Saturday afternoon set. The majority of which was spent by me trying to work out where the hell his accent is from??! I thought he was Australian but now I am not so sure.

THE FALL made me feel like I was missing a vital ingredient in what was going on... I actually asked someone if they were taking the piss after the first song, but no sadly, that same weird yelling/screeching from the very odd singer continued for the rest of the set. I don't know that it's possible for him to look anymore bored than he did either - lighten up dude, you're playing Meredith! This was a shame because their drummer was super exciting to watch and the rest of the band were really solid. Ok, I just googled them and it all makes a bit more sense now, but I think most of what they had to offer was lost in translation...

CUSTARD was probably the most fun set of the weekend. They appeared in the weak sunshine on Saturday afternoon to a crowd of quite a few die-hard fans. Some of us sang along to every SINGLE SONG in a celebration of all that was good about the 1990s. The highlight for our group had to be the synchronised dancing and singing that went with "Hit Song" as well as the shimmy-ing during "Ringo". The guys seemed to have a good time to, telling us 'it was good to be back!'.

COMBO LA REVELACION provided the usual attempts at very white people to dance like the girls on stage with varying levels of success. Mainly unsuccessful on my part. But always fun!

NEIL FINN arrived in a sunshower of goodness to one excited little festival-goer (me!). Being a huge Finn Family Fan I was super exited to see Neil as I'd never seen a solo set and I really like both his solo albums. Unfortunately for me (but hooray for everyone else) he only played one song from his solo material ("She will have her way") as well as a few Finn Brothers songs and one Split Enz song (he opened with "One Step Ahead" and I was so excited that I had a little cry). He did end up playing some of his less known material too, but it was mainly a Crowded House singalong with all the family favorites including "Fall at Your Feet", "Better be Home Soon", "Don't Dream its Over" and "Distant Sun". Highlights for me were "One Step Ahead" and "Into Temptation", but he also did "Silent House" which was nice as their new material is hugely underrated. There was a lot of hand holding and hugging during his set and it was the most wonderful thing I've ever seen at Meredith.

SHARON JONES AND THE DAP-KINGS played to a hyped up crowd who were ready for a bit of a dance - and dance she did! How does she stay to upbeat for the whole show? I was exhausted just looking at her. But they were excellent and heaps of fun, despite the rain that arrived at the same time.

DIRTY THREE probably played for too long and have left me feeling that they were boring. Sorry. It was wet and cold.

We didn't last much longer after that. A speedy getaway after THOSE DARLINS on Sunday morning meant we made it back to Melbourne much earlier than usual at 3pm.

What a wonderful weekend. Meredith, how I love thee!