April 14 , 2023
Photos by Raymond Ahner
Long before Muse took to the stage at Oakland Arena it was apparent that the evening was going to be a power packed good time. Not content to just bounce and groove to the pre-show DJ mix, the crowd of Muse fanatics leveraged the good vibes in the room to create some pre-show entertainment.
While awaiting the arrival of their heroes to storm the stage, fans throughout the arena took advantage of the dim lighting in the arena by turning on their phone flashlights to spontaneously provide a dancing light show. It was as if the room had transformed into a moving cosmos of synchronized stars, section by section throughout the arena.
By the time Muse took the stage, the ante was upped as the stage exploded with a rotating spectacle of light worthy of calling down spaceships…Close Encounters of the Third Kind style.
Taking the stage wearing hoodies and mirrored ‘will of the people’ masks, and amidst a cascade of tracer lights and pyrotechnics, they blasted off with the title track of their 9th album Will of the People (2022), which has an uncanny resemblance to ‘The Beautiful People’ by Marilyn Manson layered over a Gary Glitter back beat.
Muse has always had an element of their sound that is very ‘stadium jams’ with rolling beats and anthemic chants. But they take it to the next level with a huge overdriven-rock assault that is replete with catchy, usually politically messaged hooks. The opening performance of ‘’Will of the People’ is a perfect example, and the roar of the crowd signaled that they were all in.
It is the ability of the band to combine the familiar (rooted in their influences) with intricate songwriting and arrangements, and an ‘us against the establishment’ attitude that resonates with their very loyal fanbase. This recipe has made them one of the biggest arena acts going.
Muse (Matt Bellamy – Guitars / Piano / Vocals, Chris Wolstenholme – bass / backing vox, Dominic Howard – drums, and Dan Lancaster – synthesizers and utility instrumentation) are a conundrum in the current rock scene. They proudly embrace technology in their bombastic sound and stage presentation, but they are deeply rooted in the rock of UK-based groundbreaking bands of decades gone by.
An amalgam of different styles including metal, space rock, goth, new wave, and electronica, it is the way that Muse meld these influences together that give them their unique sound.
For instance, mid-set favorites ‘Madness’ and ‘We are Fucking Fucked’ have an 80s new wave / post-punk edge that reminds of Depeche Mode and Joy Division but with an expert level of musicianship that has an element of classic rock that evokes Queen. This blend of influences creates an unmistakable trademark sound driven by Wolstenholme’s super fuzz bass, Bellamy’s virtuoso guitar, vocals, and piano playing, and the incessant romping drumbeats of Howard.
Further underscoring their penchant for classic rock elements, Muse presents a revolutionary, concept quality to their recordings and performances that is usually reserved for bands like Pink Floyd, Queensryche, and Radiohead.
This was seen with the many interstitial videos that played between songs, and the huge inflatable monoliths (horned overseer vs. the hoodie/mirror-masked people) that hovered over the stage. This conceptual battle between oppressive authoritarianism against the will of the people was not only the theme of the show, but is an undercurrent of Muse music as a whole.
Along with the visual story weaving the set together, songs such as the techno-drenched banger ‘Compliance,’ the pounding handclap hooks of ‘Uprising,’ and the neo-classical ‘Resistance’ kept the focus on “us vs. them”.
At times the effect of that motif actually shot out from the stage and into the audience. Cannons shot confetti and streamers which created temporary moments of victory in suspended animation as the analog props floated above the crowd.
That was soon juxtaposed with blaring lights, lasers, and spires of flames which illuminated the room to create a post-apocalyptic aftermath scene as a few desolate streamers hung from the rafters blowing in the ventilation as the band raged on. The result was a sea of pumping fists, pogoing fans, and an adoring audience that sang every word in time with Bellamy’s signature falsetto/vibrato vocals.
After ending the main set with the alt-radio hit ‘Starlight’ (Black Holes and Revelations – 2006), Muse exited but quickly returned with an encore of chaotic maelstrom in the form of the razor sharp ‘Kill or Be Killed’ and the dark dystopian hayride ‘Knights of Cydonia’… game over.
As the closing lyrics ”…you and I must fight for our rights…you and I must fight to survive” rang out, the spent crowd cheered and stomped trying to coax Muse into a few more, but this performance had reached its end. It was time for Muse to take the charge for the Will Of the People to their next stop.
Opening for Muse was the Grammy award winning Evanescence. Led by the stunning vocal talents of Amy Lee, Evanescence proved to be very much at home in front of the large early arriving crowd.
WIth Lee commanding the stage (which included a runway which extended into the GA audience) and the crowd, the quintet from Little Rock, Arkansas showed that they could well have been the headliners on this bill.
From the outset Evanescence was on fire. Leading off their fourteen-song set with the countdown into the alt-metal anthem “Broken Pieces Shine,” they locked in and immediately captured the attention of the crowd with their infectious grooves.
Cranking out deep cuts like ‘Going Under,’ “Call Me When You’re Sober,” and “Better Without You,” the band showed off their dark and heavy side. But it was when they displayed their versatility with slower paced numbers such as “Lithium” and “My Immortal” that Lee really shined as the star of the show, demonstrating her excellent vocal range.
Closing with the Grammy winning “Bring Me to Life,” the crowd was spellbound. Evanescence could have easily continued and would have held the crowd as their own if time would have permitted, but for this evening they should be very content with a spectacular performance in front of the large bay area crowd.