Saturday, September 04, 2004

Lo-Fi, Hi-Fi

To the Lo. To the Hi. To the Hi-Fi we go! As Melbourne gear up for the return [third time!] of Muse to our fine city, I thought I would relive the glorious atmosphere a select [ok, eight hundred other screaming fans] group witnessed with my personal review of their Hi-Fi Bar gig in January, 2004. With what could possibly be the most electrifying set ever played, not only did Bellamy, Wolstenholme and Howard graced us with their mere presence, but they treated us to a thrilling, memorable night! But best of all, I managed to shake hands with each of them as they re-entered the place for an encore! Unfortunately, the photos posted below were the last ones before I had a chance to take a photo of them with me. Oh well, next time. And next time, I will gate-crash their after-party! Apologies for the sub-standard captures. It was made on a cheap instant-matic camera.

I cannot contain the excitment! It is only a few more sleeps before we take out intimate Hi-Fi Bar setting, up a level - to Festival Hall! Not renown for it's class or style, the redubbed "Festy Hall" will suitably cater for the large-contingent of rampaging Muse fans, come this September 8th.

Review by Reuben

Hi-Fi Bar, 27 January 2004

Muse fans are fanatical. Some waiting as earlier as 5 o'clock for a gig that officially starts at 8 o'clock. No doubt as the minute hand ticked ever so closer to the time the doors opened, the line grew and grew. Reaching almost Collins St, Muse fans know how to keep themselves occupied while waiting in line. Many wore official Muse t-shirts, while others amused others with their original and creative home-made items. A medium contingent of die-hard Muse fans who didn't score themselves a ticket held signs begging for a spare ticket. With the suggested offers of "services", to the trading of Radiohead tickets, to even dolling up to look like Matt Bellamy garner support from a sympathetic crowd. But, none were willing to part with their precious ticket. Several elderly couples were beside themselves when queried who the line was waiting for. "MUSE!" screamed an over-enthusiastic fan, near the very front of the line. This is what we all have been waiting for over four years. The wait was nearly over.

The doors opened some time after the official starting time, amidst growing annoyance and grumbling from the boisterous crowd. Once in, the crowd headed straight to the front of the stage to book the best spot of the night. With a venue like the Hi-Fi Bar, although catering a moderately small capacity (too small for all the Muse fans), the venue boasts an uninterrupted view of the stage from all angles. This is certainly true, whether you were right up the front, on the steps, or in the mezzanine level; wherever you looked, there was a clear view of the stage.

An hour had passed, the venue was at near capacity and the support act, The Morning After Girls announced their arrival with a lengthy instrumental track. Mellow sounding with some interesting distortions, The Morning After Girls were giving their best. However, the crowd only wanted Muse, and The Morning After Girls accepted that fact graciously and cheered the crowd, saying it was an absolute honour to play before Muse. Then as memorable as their lyrics, they disappeared off the stage, handing it over to the support crew who efficiently cleared the stage and anticipation fell amongst the crowd.

Close to half an hour of constant stomping and handclapping, mimicking Muse's latest album intro, the crowd was handsomely rewarded when the British came on stage! Screaming and the mad push forwards erupted and the UK trio used this to blow the bar up with an electrifying version of their latest single, "Hysteria." Mass hysteria broke out as the crowd jumped up and down, shouted out the lyrics and croon away with the three lads.

With a set list that was far more coherent than the intriguing array of songs played at the Melbourne Big Day Out the previous day, Muse knew what the fans wanted to hear, and delivered on cue. Hardly stopping to breathe, Matt Bellamy showed us why he is the greatest musician in the world. With frantic finger movements along the entire guitar fret board to the blazing piano-forte technique, Bellamy gave the impression of the mad virtuoso, utterly blinded by the music his soul creates.

Bellamy showed off with a barrage of pseudo-classical hits from their earlier albums, attacking the oddly lit keyboard with finesse and style. However, not to be outclassed, both Dominic Howard and Chris Wolstenholme played brilliantly, transposing a myriad of layers found on their albums to one instrument layer each perfectly. Bellamy's conalto voice held up and glided beautifully with each song their played. Mixing it with almost heavenly choral with the demonic, it is clear that this is distinctly their sound. No room for imitation.

Without the need to drum up the crowd with insincere greetings and love for the city, Muse approached Melbourne with honestly, with humble thank yous and with high praise for their dedicated fans. They left quickly, exiting the side door. After a brief stay outside, they ventured in, with deafening cheers and screams from the elevated crowd and played two more songs. Bellamy, almost proud, presented their bassist, Wolstenholme to helm the piano for "Blackout", before finishing with the loud "Stockholm Syndrome." As they deviated musically, Bellamy nearly tore up the stage with all the pent up energy he still possessed. Tipping over the steel fronted amplifier and standing right on top of it, Bellamy's face displayed a bevy of emotions as the lads continued on their riff. Then it was over. Muse left the stage, and the crowd went mad.

I apologise. Muse fans aren't fanatical. They are psychotic. Tearing up a towel Wolstenholme threw in the crowd. Screaming for water and drinking out of Bellamy's bottle. Grabbing the set lists, a broken drumstick and the prized possession, Bellamy's pick. I went home spent, zapped of energy, soaking in my own sweat and the thirst for water rampant. But this has to be by far, the best, electrifying gig ever. It was worth it, every single minute of it.

[quote, Reuben - own photography]


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