Muse rocks the Forum 

A look back at the Sat., Feb. 23 show, with photos & setlist.

Last Saturday night marked the third time Muse performed in Tampa — the first was opening for My Chemical Romance in 2007 and the second for U2 in 2009. But it was the UK threesome’s first proper headlining stop in Tampa on their own proper headlining tour, and it also marked the first time I got to see my super all-time favorite band headline a show without having to use vacation time and drive 500 miles to do so. [Text by Marci, photos by Chris.]

Even when Muse was playing much smaller venues, the band was always made for arenas. They have a huge sound and an even larger presence; my boyfriend still talks about how they made his eardrums vibrate when we saw them at The Tabernacle in Atlanta. But even though I miss the more intimate venues, it’s thrilling to see Muse perform in what seems to be a more natural environment, like the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

While I’m no longer the sort of fan who ends up in line at 6 a.m. so I can get the spot closest to the stage, I’m still the fan who hops from foot to foot in excitement, waiting for the lights to go down, and I wasn't disappointed this time around. The set design on 2010’s Resistance Tour was impressive — LED covered pillars reaching stadium ceiling-high and moving each band member higher and lower — but made it difficult to really lose yourself in the songs. This time, for their 2nd Law Tour, Muse kept things at crowd level, bringing the ceiling down to their heads via an immense inverted LED pyramid that descended and broadcast live and pre-recorded imagery, and then just as quickly disappeared back into the top of the forum. As if the pyramid and saturated stage lights weren’t enough, a few of Chris Wolstenholme’s bass guitars had lights embedded in the necks, which gave them a bright lightsaber appeal.

Frontman Matt Bellamy’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” earned some of the loudest applause and response from the crowd, but I wondered how many people realized it followed “Resistance,” a song with lyrics like “Quell your prayers for love and peace, you'll wake the thought police.” Later in the show, Bellamy continued to show his anti-establishment side, joking about a squirrel bringing the city of Tampa to its knees: “I heard you have no water. Those bloody squirrels!”

There was some politics-free sweetness, too, like the thumping rendition of “Follow Me,” Bellamy’s ode to fatherhood, hands down my favorite track from the band’s latest album. For me, however, the night’s highlight may have been “Black Holes and Revelations.” I’m a sucker for a sing-along, and being on the floor in the middle of this giant venue surrounded by thousands of people shouting the chorus after the band stopped singing and encouraged us all to take over, was simply amazing and unforgettable.

When the house lights came up after the encore performance of “Survival,” I’d had an amazing time, but I wanted just ... one ... more ... song. I suppose 21 had to be enough, however — until the next time, at least. I hope that Tampa’s rodent-induced water crisis doesn’t scare Muse away and that we’ve earned a permanent spot on their U.S. tour schedule.

I'd never heard opener Dead Sara, from L.A., but their sound was described to me as “a cross between Janis Joplin and Jane's Addiction.” Lead singer Emily Armstrong seemed to relax and let go a little after the first few songs, her big, lovely, slightly hoarse and soulful voice laid atop the band's psychedelic guitars. I don’t see myself buying their albums, but I wasn’t disappointed.

Setlist
Unsustainable
Supremacy
Supermassive Black Hole
Panic Station
Resistance
Star Spangled Banner
Hysteria
Animals
Knights of Cydonia
drum and bass solo
United States of Eurasia
Follow Me
Liquid State
Madness
Undisclosed Desires
Time is Running Out
New Born
The Second Law: Isolated System
Uprising

Starlights
Survival

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