First of all, Shanah Tovah to all of you welcoming in the Jewish New Year. I would be at synagogue myself but I’m simply too lazy (I just tell people I have class all day, which is partially true).
More relevantly to this blog, tomorrow I’ll be going to see Muse and Cage the Elephant at Bridgestone Arena. Interestingly, all floor seats were sold as general admission, to which I ask the following: will there be first-come first-serve chairs, or will the massive floor of Bridgestone become one gigantic mosh pit? I’m uncertain which I would prefer. On the one hand, seats would allow me to sit and appreciate the music; on the other hand, a mosh pit would be a much wilder, and probably more memorable, experience. Either way, I’m planning on getting downtown right around or just after lunch to ensure that my #shortpeopleproblems won’t come into play. I had a front-row view for both Billy Joel and Rites, and I am intent upon keeping that high standard.
I don’t know much about Cage the Elephant but I’m excited to learn more. Hopefully the guy in the yellow shirt is joking around.
In terms of the music itself, I have always liked Muse decently well and “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” is a good song, but I really don’t know either of these bands too well. I have, however, been listening to a ton of Muse over the past week to prepare myself for the show, and here are a couple takeaways I have gleaned from them:
– They are a much heavier band than I previously thought. This was especially evident in their earlier music, particularly on their 2003 release Absolution. Although they have incorporated more synths, electronic effects, and even dubstep into their music over the years, this hard rock core is still very much intact. One listen to “Supremacy,” the first song off their most recent album The 2nd Law, proves this. It will be interesting to see how they change up the pace between their earlier headbangers and their more recent space/glam/electro-rock. Most importantly, though, Bellamy better be wearing this Glorious All-Red outfit.
(I sincerely hope some of you understood that pun.)
– Their style has evolved over the years. Some of their fans are not too pleased with this, vilifying the growling electro-bass on “Madness” and the straight-up dance music that is “Follow Me,” among other things. I, however, think it’s cool that Muse is changing with the times. They still have all the things that make them Muse: Matthew Bellamy’s falsetto, classical music infusions into post-grunge sound, lyrics dealing with an us-against-the-world type of love, etc. But a band that keeps a consistent sound over the years stays put in that time period. A prime example of this is AC/DC. Australia’s biggest contribution to rock music is noted for their straightforward riffs, even beats, and distinctive screeching vocals. That they are world-famous and influential cannot be doubted, but I would contend that they have had no role in pushing music forward. For example, have a listen to the following two AC/DC songs:
Which of these songs was written in 1980, and which in 2008? It’s almost impossible to tell, unless you are a diehard fan of the band. Brian Johnson’s vocal chords have aged, but the style is exactly the same. AC/DC can be lauded for “staying true to themselves,” but what kind of band completely shuts themselves off from outside influence? Art is a reflection of the world in which it is created and of the personality of its creators; has AC/DC been living in a world that hasn’t changed since the late 1970s? Artistically, AC/DC has done very little to take music in a new and progressive direction. Their fans will defend them to the death for it. But as a musician and a follower of the times, I see AC/DC as a static relic of my parents’ college years, a band that may have seemed cool when I was a little kid first picking up a guitar but which I left behind long ago, moving on to more creative, innovative music.
The message here is that Muse, unlike AC/DC, has tastefully incorporated new styles into their music while continuing to let their distinct signature as a band shine through. You can’t listen to any of the songs on The 2nd Law, except perhaps for the two-part titular electro-odyssey at the end, and not recognize that you are listening to Muse. But it’s nice to be able to tell that you are listening to Muse in 2013 and not in 2003. It’s always a risk when a band changes their style, because they risk losing fans who resist change and who came to love a snapshot of the band as they were at a particular moment. But, if done well, the incorporation of modern music trends is not only vital to the growth of popular music as a whole, but also a factor that ensures the lasting legacy of a band. Those of us who have read Darwin know that species survive through naturally selective adaptation to a changing world. It is no different in music. And though AC/DC has survived to this point, it’s hard to take them seriously as a force in today’s world of music.
Like the brain depicted on the cover of The 2nd Law, Muse has constantly evolved over time.
Well, that was a long tangent. Suffice it to say that I am eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s concert. Muse is supposedly a dynamic live act, and their music, as I’ve already described, is innovative yet distinctive. I’ll be back with a review of the show on Saturday (by which time I will also know a lot more about Cage the Elephant). In the mean time, be sure to mark your calendars for Sunday at 9pm central, when Eli Teplin will be appearing on The VU Backstage. As always, please follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Peace out and, to all members of the Tribe, happy new year.