Muse Just That

Muse, the hard rocking band that has taken the world by storm over these last several years appeared at Oakland Coliseum Wednesday April 14, 2010. Older work by this band focused on rapid-fire metal compositions, but more recently they moved into more of a glam-alternative-stadium rock direction which mixes in elements of progressive and classical music. Put together Queen, Green Day, and Pink Floyd with an occasional disco beat and you get a new unique sound achieved by Muse. Wednesday night the band focused on more recent releases, 2006’s Black Holes and Revelations and last year’s The Resistance to deliver the right mix of these varied styles.

The show was simply spectacular. The staging was unique as each core band member appeared within a set of three huge towers stretching from stage to ceiling, on which live and collected images were projected to stunning effect. The lower sections of these towers were lifts which alternately rose and lowered to embellish the stage below.

The music was equally exceptional, as singer Matthew Bellamy (voice, guitars, keyboards) manages to hit all of his notes and somehow preserve his vocals through long tours, partly due to the band’s deft management of sound dynamics. Outstanding band mates Christopher Wolstenholme (bass), and Dominic Howard (drum) also take leads, but alternately lower and raise the volume during verses and choruses so everything can be heard.

Only complaint would be that Matthew spent too little time at the piano this time around, given he is an excellent pianist obviously influenced by classical composers such as Rachmaninoff . Also at times one could say Muse is almost too perfect live, threatening to lose a bit of the emotional punch of the tracks. Given the staging and performance itself is so expansive and aggressive, these issues are overcome making this spectacle truly amazing and highly recommended.

Air: Fresh at the Fox

Air, is the French duo who have been steadily releasing exceptional recordings since 1995. Best known for the electronica-infused 1998 release “Moon Safari“, which spawned the single “Sexy Boy”, their work has been featured in the films “Virgin Suicides”, and “Lost in Translation” among others. Their brand of electronic music has been inspired by and could be compared to several synthesizer-driven brands of “space rock” and pop including Jean Michael Jarre, Tangerine Dream and even Pink Floyd. Their live shows transcend the studio recordings and emphasize psychedelic jams such as “Don’t be Light” from 2001’s “10 000 HZ Legend“.

After a 3 year hiatus, Air returned to the bay area to back their 2009 release “Love 2“. Now touring as a trio on keyboards, bass, and drum, they delivered another superior live performance for a packed house at the Fox Theater in Oakland, CA. From early lounge tracks such as “La Femme d’Argent” to the current vocoder-driven track “Love” they alternated between electronica, space, and pop influences keeping the set tight and powerful and very different from most bands from the last dozen years.

For many who may have heard early recordings by this duo, their more recent albums and live experience would come as a pleasant surprise. Any fears that the show might be too languid or dull would be shattered by the reality that this band stages very compelling concerts. Air is carrying the torch of quality music today and is highly recommended.