Lollapalooza Review: Muse & The Roots.

As I stated earlier, these were my two favorite performances of the festival, and not that far apart in my heart. I enjoyed every single song each band played and the only reason why I wasn't 100% satisfied with either is because they were forced to stop due to time constraints. Every song Muse played I knew and loved, but they were unable to play every song I wanted because they had to stop at 10pm. Same with The Roots. If they had two hours or more to fully expound on their improvisational expertise, I would've been enrapt for every minute.


Imagine taking both sides of Radiohead's psyche: the techno side and the rock n' roll side, then throwing away the techno side; you'd have Muse. They are to modern day Rock N' Roll what Metallica was to the 90s, what Def Leppard was to the 80s, what Led Zeppelin was to the 70s. They are quintessentially an Arena Rock band in an era where Indie Rock is king. Where sparse productions and intimate settings rule, Muse devastates audiences with bombastic singing, high fallutin' guitars, thundering drums. Really, the only thing Muse lacks that their predecessors employed is pyrotechnics; but where they lack in explosions and fire they make up for in an amazing light show and a backdrop where more colorful images are displayed.

Another thing that's a bit of a lost art is when a band recreates their music as an exact replica to their album's sound. Either they craft their albums around playing them live or they craft their live shows to sound like the albums; either way, it's something to appreciate. Too often bands will jazz up their old standards or reconfigure their album tracks for the live shows. And, too often, they end up butchering the music we want to hear with alternate lyrics, poor guitar soloing, or improvisation where no improvisation is required. After all, we go to see bands play based on the records and songs we buy and hear on the radio; why would we want to see substandard versions played live that cost us anywhere from $40 to $240? Muse doesn't waste time stretching out songs that are already perfect in their natural 4-5 minute forms. And, in that sense, they got around to playing almost everything I wanted to hear - even a couple older tracks from their anonymous days earlier this century.

Omissions: Muscle Museum and Thoughts of a Dying Atheist

The Roots

Ever heard of a rap group with only one rapper? For that matter, ever heard of a rap group that not only incorporates drums, guitar, and bass guitar, but also a trumpet, trombone, saxophone, AND a tuba?

Black Thought - the resident rapper - plowed through a kickass sequence of songs before preaching to the audience about how everybody's saying "Hip Hop is dead" and then barrelling into a medley of classics including Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and Biz Markie's "Just A Friend". They got around to performing "The Seed 2.0" and "You Got Me" a couple of The Roots' most popular songs, before closing with an improvisational medley that coupled as band introductions.

What stands out more than anything else though is the guitarist. At first, I didn't really think much of him, except I thought it was funny that he was singing the Erykah Badu part of "You Got Me". Then, during the subsequent soloing portion of that very song, he busted out on what seemed like a 10-minute escapade of thrashing I haven't seen the likes of since Mike McCreedy kicked my ass at the last Gorge show last year. Between his prowess, the bass guitarist fiddling around on his own solo earlier in the set, and ?uestlove's massacre behind the skins, I'm prone to declaring The Roots not the greatest live rap show on the market, but the greatest live band touring today.

The Roots put to shame some rock bands that have been around for years if not decades, and they most definitely don't get the credit they deserve in the pop music spectrum and the rock music spectrum.

Omissions: Masters Of War and What They Do

For the purposes of this festival, Muse achieved my Number 1 status by a slim margin, but that wasn't by impressing the hell out of me so much as my having a preconceived bias going in. I like Muse more than I like The Roots. That having been said, given the opportunity, I'll most definitely see The Roots live again before I ever see Muse. See, Muse, in playing live like they play on record, I don't have to see them again until they pump out a few more high-quality records like the last two they've released. With The Roots, however, I'd most likely get a different show 10 out of 10 times, with different takes on popular songs that feel more welcomed than if Muse tried the same thing.

Two bands, two very different performances, two reasons to laud the state of rock music today.