Muse, Coachella 2014

Matthew Bellamy of Muse performs onstage during day 2 of the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 12, 2014 in Indio, California

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Playing at the same time as Skrillex, Nas, Pet Shop Boys and the Dismemberment Plan, Muse was the Coachella headliner that had the misfortune of playing against numerous other palatable options on Saturday night (Apr. 12). Those who committed to the main stage were treated to a typically soaring performance from the symphonic rock troupe, who ticked off the hits upon opening with "Stockholm Syndrome" and ending with a rapturous version of "Knights of Cydonia."

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In between, frontman Matt Bellamy wagged his shagging hair and shrugged off the sandstorm that had plagued Pharrell Williams' voice an hour earlier ("What can you expect? We're in the desert," Bellamy told the crowd). The singer let his guitar screech during the "Madness" solo and then tossed the instrument like a javelin a few songs later. "Starlight" found Bellamy hopping offstage to high-five the members of the front row, and on "Uprising," he pumped his fist with a rebellious spirit. The many visual pyrotechnics that Muse brings to its live show -- the lasers, neon lights, flashing slogans and grandiose videos -- were in full effect at Coachella, but the spryness of Bellamy's performance was more memorable than the technical details.

The highlight of the headlining set came early, however, when the U.K. band delivered the cover of Nirvana's "Lithium" that they had debuted at Lollapalooza Brazil last week. "This next song's for a great singer who died 20 years ago," Bellamy said, nodding to the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death last Saturday. Muse's brand of "Lithium" proved to be controlled and dramatic in person, an unexpected set deviation that delighted all that were watching.

Muse has only released one new album, 2012's "The 2nd Law," since headlining Saturday night of Coachella in 2010, and those four years have not changed the fundamental components of the band's live show. Yet Muse knows its strengths and amplifies them on grand stages like the one they took on Saturday night. There might have been other strong options available at Coachella during Muse's headlining set, but the band never gave its audience a chance to think about anyone else.

 

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