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We Asians get the short end of the stick when it comes to live performances from international artists, much less rock acts. So when Muse announced a tour across Asia with a date in Hong Kong - about two hours away by train - it was an opportunity I’d have to be incredibly stupid to pass up. I phoned some friends to tag along and left Hong Kong with an experience I definitely won’t forget.
Being the inexperienced concert goer I am - well, being me in general - I couldn’t resist to give that experience a review.
Opening act - The Ruse
We joked about how we were tricked into thinking it was The Ruse we paid to see, given the similar name. That aside, they put on a decent show.
The crowd gave a warm reception for the four-piece LA band, especially when they invited an old friend of theirs on stage to relish in their success. A few call and responses got the crowd clapping along, but apart from that, the band could only rack up a few courteous cheers.
They played 7 songs if I remember correctly, all of which sounded a bit indistinguishable and U2-esque. Generic, basically, but not bad. I don’t think many people ended up googling them after the gig.
Drill Sergeant + Psycho
40 minutes after The Ruse left, the opening graphic of a drill sergeant spontaneously appeared and the crowd went absolutely, completely out of it. I couldn’t believe it was going to happen, either. Muse was about to blow my face off.
The band came and frontman Matt played the opening riff accompanied by a vocal rendition from the crowd. Then the jumping then the “Aye sir!” then the flashing lights then more jumping. All this while wondering if it was real life. Mindless fun.
I didn’t expect this to come next, but it was nonetheless epic: from the guitar tapping to the solo, shouting “DRONES!” to the final chorus, then the absolutely massive outro. The air was thick with visceral, noisy rock and roll.
Plug In Baby
“IT’S PLUG IN BABY!” shouted my friend with the most ecstatic face I’ve ever seen (He was rehearsing the lyrics all day). More jumping, anthemic chorus, mouthing the riff, epic final falsetto. More mindless fun.
The graphic that appeared behind the band is now etched in my retinas (This monstrous thing). Extremely creepy, but the dark undertones of the performance added some topical substance behind the heretofore mindless fun. And I don’t think Matt screwed up the year-long solo this time.
The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
Most visually attractive performance of the night. Flashing lights that alternated between white and red coincided with the wub-wubs of Matt’s guitar (?). The change in time signature was an especially “OH YES!” moment.
I didn’t expect this to get much reception, but it did, and I enjoyed it. But I didn’t walk away changing my mind about the song. It’s good, but not great.
Interlude + Hysteria
Hysteria’s studio version is a song of genius - particularly in the way it’s layered - but there’s something about the live versions that take that away. I was anticipating to be proven wrong but I’m still of the same opinion. The iconic bass riff sounded fine, but Matt’s guitar was way too quiet.
If it can’t be the best it can be, it can still be really great, and it was. Another anthemic chorus and powerful instrumental bridge made it epic, but not quite memorable.
However the proceeding riffs were unforgettable, especially the first that came afterwards which I’ve never heard before. The aggressive lighting stuck out as well. They followed that with a riff from Back in Black, which was good headbanging fun.
I was aware before the concert that this was a regular for the Asia tour dates, so I was keen to find out if I’ll end up understanding how it’s their best song ever, according to many Muse fans.
With that said, I think more highly of it, but nothing earth shattering. Lots of headbanging, and epic transitions between the soft and hard parts - like a night at the opera. Matt’s final falsettos were especially awe-inducing.
The opening kicks of Dom’s bass drum felt like a tremor through the venue. Once Matt’s piano thundered in, immediately a feeling of great importance like in The Handler could be felt. A “sense of urgency” if you will. The instrumental breaks - accompanied by haunting falsettos and hazard-green warning graphics and lighting - felt like undergoing hypnosis, only to be disrupted by the seismic bass kicks once again.
Drones (Drum & Bass) Jam
Equal parts clever and groovy. The time signature change was especially a great headbanging moment. Best drumming of the night, too.
Again, not a song I expected to receive an ovation, but it did. Nice change of pace. An epic ending gave the crowd something to shout their hearts out to.
Supermassive Black Hole
Another one that got the crowd going wild, jumping frantically to the catchy riff. I really wanted to jump to the solo but no one was having it, which was strange given the moment’s climactic nature.
Anyways, it was still a song everyone found enjoyable, especially as they shouted “Supermassive Black Hole!” like schoolchildren.
Time Is Running Out
Another one that got my friend turning to me in disbelief - “OH! TIME IS RUNNING OUT!”
This was probably the climax of the evening. I thought Supermassive Black Hole made everyone crazy - Time Is Running Out turned everyone into maniacs. It undeniably had the most violent jumping of the evening during the choruses. I wanted to join but I’d break every valuable I had on me if I did. More headbanging and pointing had to do.
A pleasant yet energetic song to ease the tension. It was a nice, fun song that involved a lot of clapping and crowd responses. A little dancey, even.
It wasn’t the bathroom break I expected it to be, but it was still a little lackluster. The chorus was a lot of fun to shout - a moment of catharsis. The final instrumental rocked hard. Balloons came in to entertain the crowd while the band took a break. They smelled a little gross when they popped but it was still fun.
If TIRO wasn’t the climax, then this probably was. Lots of confetti and souring vocals sustained the crowd’s energy throughout the song’s latter half. It was an epic visual treat as well. If one performance changed my mind about a song, it’s probably this one.
Man With A Harmonica
I swear the volume was turned up to 11. Dom’s snare hits felt like the crack of thunder and my eardrums resonated with every hit of a tom. In a word: EPIC. Yes, in caps.
Knights of Cydonia
Another question I wanted answered coming into the concert was whether or not this was fitting as a closer. Probably, but this performance didn’t quite do it justice, especially after the theatrics from Mercy. The performance wasn't as kinetic as I’d imagined it to be and the energy was stale in comparison to the more anthemic songs in the set.
Still though, the jumping and shouting of the riff gave the song a nice, heavy atmosphere. The final crashes of the cymbals and strums of the guitar was a nice sendoff.
Afterwards, I felt mixed emotions - mostly overwhelmingly positive. On one hand, I saw my favourite band in the world dish it out and blow the roof off the place. On the other hand, the handful of songs I wanted them to play weren’t played - understandably so considering the audience being performed to. The set was short and went by in a flash.
Despite that, a huge void in my soul was filled having seen Muse for the first time. Not a beat was skipped, the visuals were amazing as I expected, the crowd was always responsive, and the jumping gave everyone a good workout. Besides a couple more deep cuts, what more could I have asked for?