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Muse – H.A.A.R.P. – [DVD]

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Monday, 21 April 2008

The nature of mainstream pop (call it new rock, punk, alternative, garage or indie, they’re all pop forms) doesn’t leave much space for moodiness. Critical mass for the genre where honestly emotionally distraught acts are concerned is maybe 0.3 percent—including acts like Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Depeche Mode and Mike Patton—which means that the track is set and narrow and new bands attempting to break into the club are regularly met with suspicion. You have to pay your dues and, as former Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland or any of the assembled members of The Panic Channel, Mad Season or Army of Anyone could tell you (don‘t know who they are? Look them up and you‘ll see what I mean), the returns you want aren’t a given. Judging by the capacity stadium crowd in front of Muse on this DVD though, they’ve gotten those desired returns and more in kind.

It’s actually kind of amazing how well and thoroughly the band has broken through; taking the stage with a host of antiquated rock relic ideas (operatic vocals, more thematic drama than anyone’s seen in one band since Queen or Judas Priest, a command of the stage not unlike the one Bowie boasted in his Outside phase) and biggest-band-in-the-world bombast that modern mainstream rock fashionistas of the moment abhor, Muse would be written off in a heartbeat—but nobody can find fault with a fantastic rock show and they definitely provide that.

The band never slows down as they begin to dig into tracks including “Hysteria,” “Supermassive Black Hole,” “Starlight” and “Time Is Running Out;” the raw power that the band exudes from the stage is impressive and they feed off of the crowd as the assembled mass eats it up. By the time Muse takes notice of its obligatory “hard rock sweetness” moment (represented here as “Hoodoo,” “Apocalypse Please” and “Feeling Good”) they’ve got every soul in the room (and probably a lot of those watching the DVD at home) eating out of their hands.

From there, the rest is gravy. The denouement of the set isn’t a steady decline into silence—it still has the tenor of a band working hard, rocking out and establishing themselves as members of the new rock elite—but the explosion and shock of the performance has been registered in the first two-thirds of the set and the audience is already basking in the afterglow. “Stockholm Syndrome” and “Take a Bow” are the twin cherries on a spectacular performance that doesn’t leave anything out and doesn’t have a misstepped moment in its run-time. This live album presents Muse as already accepted by the new rock legions—there’s no arguing that—but as an exposition of every reason why, it works perfectly too; HARRP is Muse at its absolute best.

H.A.A.R.P. is out now on Warner.

More on Muse here: www.myspace.com/muse and www.muse.mu

Muse – H.A.A.R.P. – Trailer

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