Wow, what an amazing show! I've seen Radiohead twice and I have to say, for sheer power and energy, the rock show Muse put on last night (July 27th, 2006) at the Aragon just might be better. Now, I've never seen Radiohead in a smaller venue, only at Alpine Valley and Coachella, so maybe it's not a fair comparison. And Radiohead has been awesome, but the Muse guys are snapping at their heels for the mantle of best British rock act if this keeps up.
The venue was perfect for this sort of show, big open room with ornate art deco/gothic decorations and a vaulted ceiling, just one of the great old Chicago theaters. Amazingly enough, although I've been in Chicago for over 3 years now and seen a decent amount of shows, I've never seen a show at the Aragon before.The crowd was hyped for the show and ready for something big before the band even took stage.
I have to say I love being in a rock crowd that really loves the band and sings along. I love to sing along at rock shows. In fact, in the middle of "Time Is Running Out," Matt cut away from the mic and the crowd took over singing "bury it, won't let you bury it, won't let you smother it, won't let you murder it…" before Matt came back in "our time is running out…" It was awesome.
The addition of a keyboardist on this tour really adds a lot to flesh out the band's sound in more of a live organic way (they used a lot of keyboard loops anyway before) and he also sings, so the background vocals were spot on and sounded much like the new album for much of the time. They played about half the songs from the new album, including my current favorite, "Starlight." A piano version of "Soldier's Poem" worked just as well as the acoustic guitar version on the album. Sprinkled in were a number of favorites from Absolution that were all responded to with roars of approval from the crowd, with the one notable missing exception of "Sing For Absolution".
The lighting and set design were rather inspired, with a really unique video treatment running in the background on a bunch of small rectangular screens. These contained a mix of live footage being shot in front of the stage and video loops designed for the show. Nothing over the top, just really artistic and it added a lot to the energy of the show.
After the prerequisite crowd encouragement, the band stormed back on stage for an inspired encore set beginning with "Take A Bow" and ending with a thunderous "Knights of Cydonia". As before, when I saw them at the Metro, I couldn't help but be impressed with the sheer musicianship and stage presence of this band. Aside from the rather envious talents of Matt Bellamy, Chris and Dom lay down an amazing rhythm section that just never lets up and anchors the wide variety of tonal palettes Matt brings with guitar and piano. It's just one, in a long tradition, of amazing three piece bands and certainly my current favorite.