Rock News

Muse Pack Arena-Size Anthems Into Surprise SXSW Show

Muse are a band that like things on a massive scale, igniting big sounds on the biggest stages, with the kind of big visual effects known only to the likes of Pink Floyd and Daft Punk. That’s the Muse comfort zone, but the British trio’s special appearance Friday on a much smaller stage at a MySpace Music-presented South By Southwest show traded grand gestures for relative intimacy, without deflating the band’s soaring post-punk prog sound.

There were still laser-beams and songs delivered at arena-rock size at the outdoor amphitheater of Stubb’s BBQ in Austin, but singer-guitarist Matt Bellamy embraced all that is the ground-level nature of the annual SXSW music festival. “We’re feeling good vibes in this town right now,” he told a packed crowd.

RS is tweeting 100 bands from SXSW 2010! Follow the action here.

The band’s hour-long set began with the ominous keyboards and revolution rock of “Uprising,” a track from last year’s The Resistance, calling for “fat cats” to succumb to heart failure while promising, “They will not degrade us, they will not control us…” The band stretched out in a variety of disparate sounds and directions, usually within a single song. Bellamy led the crowd in clapping to the straight-ahead heartbreak beat from the ’80s-style pop hit “Starlight” (from 2006’s Black Holes and Revelations), but also unfurled the galloping Spanish surf-guitar vibe of “Knights Of Cydonia,” sounding like something Dick Dale and ELP might have cooked up together for a Spaghetti Western soundtrack, before Muse slipped into the Queen-like vocal harmonies of “You and I must fight for our rights / You and I must fight to survive.”

There was a welcome bit of funk in some of Muse’s prog, and occasional, if brief guitar flourishes that echoed Hendrix, Black Sabbath and Aerosmith, demonstrating real hard-rock chops in the anxious playing fingers of Bellamy. The songs were anthemic, melodramatic and performed with all the self-confidence of a consistently platinum-selling act. There are many fans and many critics, and the comparisons to Radiohead are not often meant as a compliment. But Bellamy, bassist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard demonstrated that the great walls of sound Muse have spent the last decade creating can still connect to an audience at ground level.

Indie-rock quartet Metric opened the show, beginning their set with the crackle and hum of “Twilight Galaxy.” The quartet’s 45-minute set was fueled on excited postmodern pop and explosive melody. At one point, singer Emily Haines included a few whispery, spectral moments of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My” as an intro to Metric’s “Gimme Sympathy,” which asks the contentious pop music question: “After all of this is gone / Who’d you rather be? / The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? / Oh, seriously.”

Haines hopped and banged a tambourine in a short sparkly dress during “Help I’m Alive,” her voice going from heavy to high and wailing, “My heart keeps beating like a hammer!” She picked up an electric guitar for “Gold Guns Girls” to slash rhythm during the intense soloing of guitarist James Shaw, stirring up a crowd of festival-goers close enough to be reached.

Muse Set List:

“Uprising” (Riff Version)
“Supermassive Black Hole”
“Stockholm Syndrome”
“United States of Eurasia”
“Time is Running Out”
“Unnatural Selection”

“Plug in Baby”
“Knights of Cydonia” (Harmonica Version)

More SXSW 2010:

RS’ SXSW Twitter Marathon: Catch the Tweets Here!
Spoon, Broken Bells Grab the Spotlight as SXSW 2010 Launches
Stone Temple Pilots Debut Songs, Rock With Robby Krieger at SXSW
Broken Social Scene, Band of Horses, Drive-By Truckers Bring Big Guitar Rock to SXSW
Hole Cover the Rolling Stones, And Courtney Love Isn’t Satisfied at SXSW

Rock News

Stone Temple Pilots Debut Songs, Rock With Robby Krieger at SXSW

Stone Temple Pilots are not a band many could have expected to survive two full decades. Even acts without the internal wounds of serious addiction and ongoing conflict rarely make it this long, but when STP emerged onstage at the Austin Music Hall for a special performance at South By Southwest on Thursday, they delivered like journeyman rock stars with their shit together — tight and focused, and unburdened with the bitterness or bad memories from the recent past.

Singer Scott Weiland shimmied stylishly across the stage in a snug vest, tie and wraparound shades, rasping to an explosive “Vaseline,” as guitarist Dean DeLeo ignited bursts of noise and melody. Bassist Robert DeLeo strutted in a black suit and white patent-leather shoes, and drummer Eric Kretz pounded anxious beats from a gleaming white drum-riser. The 4,400-capacity Austin Music Hall was packed, and during 75 minutes of hits and new songs, the SoCal quartet managed to make the big shed feel as intimate and overheated as a club show.

They dove into STP’s earliest records, with the brooding, sludgy “Wicked Garden” and the aching resignation of “Creep” still tapping into some early-’90s disaffection and gloom, while the slower “Big Empty” floated to Dean DeLeo’s dreamy slide guitar, with sudden thunderous riffs as repeated exclamation points. Stone Temple Pilots were real grunge-era hit-makers for several years, with songs that remain a staple of rock radio, but the band’s renewed drive onstage after reappearing from a half-decade in limbo saved them from becoming mere oldies.

Songs from the band’s upcoming new album were unveiled throughout the set, fitting easily between the hits. “They’re brand new,” Weiland declared, “but they’ll feel like you’ve been hearing them for 20 years.” The self-titled 11-song collection, due May 25th, will be their first since 2001, and includes the riff-raff of “Between the Lines,” which sounded in Austin like sped-up Rolling Stones, with a flamboyant accent of Ziggy Stardust, as Weiland reminisced on the early days of romance with his estranged wife, purring breathlessly: “I like it when we talk about love, even when we used to take drugs.”

The taunting “Huckleberry Crumble” and “Hickory Dichotomy” were ’70s guitar rock with deep blues in their veins, as Weiland vamped center stage. He tossed his sweat-soaked vest into the crowd and promised another fresh new tune, saying “I hope you dig it,” but instead dove into “Plush,” one of STP’s most recognizable hits. The band had barely begun when Weiland held his microphone out over the crowd, which shouted an entire verse back at the stage.

For the band’s two-song encore, STP was joined by Doors guitarist Robby Krieger, introduced by Weiland as “a man who was part of the greatest rock & roll group in history,” before diving into a fiery “Roadhouse Blues,” leaving enough room for DeLeo and Krieger to stretch out on dueling leads. The night ended with an intense reading of “Trippin’ On a Hole in a Paper Heart,” another drug tale from 1996.

Earlier in the set, Weiland graciously told fans, “It’s your party, not ours.” But after tumultuous times both together and apart, Weiland and Stone Temple Pilots have learned to make the most of surviving long enough to enjoy it themselves.

Set List:

“Wicked Garden”
“Hollywood Bitch”
“Between the Lines”
“Hickory Dichotomy”
“Big Empty”
“Sour Girl”
“Interstate Love Song”
“Huckleberry Crumble”
“Sex Type Thing”
“Dead and Bloated”

“Roadhouse Blues”
“Trippin’ On a Hole in a Paper Heart”