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Muse pulls out all the stops in latest concert tour

DULUTH -- Electric.

From the techno pulse that signaled the beginning to the vibrations of the hard-driving beats inside one's own chest, the experience was an electric assault on the senses as British band Muse gave a dynamic performance Saturday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Taking the stage

A trio of partitions sheathed in cloths served as screens for the projected images of humans walking in succession up multiple stairs before the figures suddenly began to gently fall. When the cloths dropped to the floor of the stage, each of the three members of Muse was revealed standing in a gap, midway between the bottom and top portions of each of the partitions, on which images were projected throughout the show.

Drummer Dominic Howard claimed the center partition with lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Bellamy to his right and bassist Christopher Wolstenholme to his left.

Muse opened the show with "Uprising," the first track off the band's latest CD, "The Resistance," before moving right into track No. 2, "Resistance." The band's third number signaled the descent of each of the three partition platform, which brought the band members to stage level, where multiple mic stands allowed Bellamy and Howard -- both playing cordless guitars -- to make the most of the oval-shaped stage. Two platforms on each side, both outfitted with mics, brought Muse up close to the audience.

Throughout the show, the band and the audience were bathed in lights that flashed and flickered chaotically in time to the eardrum-shattering sounds of electric and bass guitars and drums. When the blazing pace and energy of the show finally slowed after a couple numbers, stage crew members rolled out a grand piano for Bellamy, and the volume of the music fell dramatically, only to be turned right back up in the same song. The inside of the piano was outfitted with multiple, golden yellow lights that pulsed each time Bellamy's fingers pressed the keys.

One of the highlights of the show was a drum and bass guitar solo during which Howard and Wolstenholme faced opposite directions back to back as the platform on which Howard's drums were set rotated, giving them a 360 degree view of the audience on all side of the open stage.

As the band continued its non-stop audio/visual assault, "Time is Running Out," a song off Muse's third album "Absolution," was accompanied by the descent of large, white balloons each bearing the likeness of an eye's iris over the audience. When the balloons burst, red paper confetti was scattered over the crowd and onto the stage.

Following a rendition of "Unnatural Selection" off the latest album, Muse departed the stage only to return for an encore of songs, including the audience favorite "Stockholm Syndrome."

Brilliant Bellamy

Bellamy's talent as a musician is so tremendous he could have stood without all the bells and whistles, whether rocking out on one of his custom guitars (he designs them himself) or stroking the keys of the grand piano rolled out on stage for "United States of Eurasia" off Muse's latest album. With those bells and whistles, Bellamy, backed by Wolstenholme and Howard, was an electrical force to be reckoned with, a master showman rightfully holding the spotlight.