The lights were turned up at Joe Louis Arena, Muse retreated backstage, and we dashed for the exit. As we came down the southeast entrance on the Cobo Hall side, a security guard asked us to hold off crossing the road for a few seconds as a trio of SUVs drove through. To our surprise, it was the members of Muse. As the last notes of “Knights of Cydonia” were still reverberating in the Joe, Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme, and Dominic Howard already distanced themselves from the show in Detroit.
There was no reason to take this personally, I’m sure they do this at many of their shows, but I did. Does every band hate playing Detroit? Is that why so many artists skip right over us? Going from Toronto to Cleveland then to Chicago. The trend of Detroit becoming a fly-over venue for rock artists has become too common. This used to be “Detroit Rock City.” Now it seems bands use that phrase only to get us to build their egos with guaranteed applause. We’ve become an afterthought for many top acts.
It’s hard to blame Muse for high tailing out of the, at best, 60 percent full capacity venue to move on with their tour. A sedated crowd and with many coming dressed as empty seats, doesn’t breathe life into a road-weary band. But is this apathy from the audience contagious? As the paying customer, it’s easy to forget a concert is a two-way street of emotion. It’s rare to have performers simply not care about the show, but it’s easy as an audience member to never experience that transcendent level of a live show. You get what you give in life, and this is no exception.
The stage was set up, like many arena acts, for a 360-degree experience. There wasn’t a seat in the house that would miss out on a worthwhile experience, so the excuse of a bad view has been invalidated. Simply put, a crowd that sits on their hands doesn’t get a performance to remember for the rest of their lives no matter how well the band performs. They may get a show well worth the money, but will be forgotten as soon as the band speeds away in their SUVs. Maybe these bands have a good point in skipping Motown.
With all this being said, Muse, the professionals they are, didn’t mail it in, far from it. Their new album, Drones, provided most of the imagery and theme for the show. It was a creepy, Orwellian, military-complex, paranoia stage show that gave insight into the eccentric and bizarre mind of lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Bellamy. With a deep catalog of politically charged songs about revolution and corruption, it’s not surprising to see actual “drones” floating over the crowd, and security for the band dressed as military police to represent the corrupt police state that exists in Bellamy’s mind.
Even though the crowd was timid, Muse played a flawless show with a seamless mix of new and classic tracks, which allowed their devoted fans to reciprocate with the same energy Matt Bellamy and company shared. Though, it didn’t really come through with the visible excitement I had hoped. I found myself being engulfed in passive enjoyment of the show. The emotion is absolutely contagious. The buzz and excitement prior to so many other shows I have attended didn’t surface for Muse. The participation and unbridled exuberance never manifested. The typical pulse-pounding “Uprising,” did no more than get some head bobbing and half-assed fist raises from the crowd. I spent my whole night looking out at the crowd and trying to separate myself from the dead atmosphere, but I succumb to it. I was right to take it personally.
What happened to Detroit Rock City? Rock bands used to bank on Detroit as a show that would always make their long, grueling tours worth it. Now, Detroit seems to have become a stop that rarely seems worth the effort. A stadium filling band like Muse should have no problem selling out Joe Louis Arena, but they did, and they had the empty seats to prove it. I began to realize it’s not their fault, though.
The only issue I had with Muse themselves was the lack of songs from their 2012 album, The 2nd Law. They uncorked “Madness” to the audible delight of the female fans, but didn’t give us “Panic Station,” “Supremacy,” or “Follow Me.” I would’ve been more disappointed if not for how great the songs from Drones translated live. I seemed to be in the minority believing that after 20 or so years being together, Muse still brought just as much energy and substance to their music as they always have. It was a great show, from great performers with great talent; I just wish the crowd would have raised their game to the same levels. After all, we earned the title of Rock City, it’s time to defend it.
Setlist (Via Setlist.fm)
Map of the Problematique
The 2nd Law: Isolated System
Supermassive Black Hole
Time Is Running Out
Knights of Cydonia