Photo of Muse by Colin Williams
w/ ONE OK ROCK
We’re only three short months into the new year and venues across St. Louis are selling out shows as bands hit the stage to promote new albums and create a new generation of rock music fans. There has been steadily increasing interest within the rock music industry as many older artists release new records and take to the tour buses. Muse started their Will of the People tour in April of 2022 and eleven months later it landed at Chaifetz Arena. For this leg of the tour, the UK based band was accompanied by the legendary Evanescence, as well as Japanese rock band ONE OK ROCK.
Forming in Tokyo in 2005, Japan-based rock/pop band ONE OK ROCK opened the night with their hit single “Save Yourself.” The band’s peculiar name evolved from a playful English translation of “one o’clock,” which was the time in the morning they chose to hold band practice to save money on their rehearsal studio. With support from Amuse, Inc., the band released two EPs in 2006—a self-titled ONE OK ROCK, and the follow-up KEEP IT REAL. The foursome continued to make music, and between 2007-2009 they released several singles with moderate success including Naihishinsho, Yume Yume, and Et Cetera. After three album releases, the band found themselves in the middle of a controversy with now-former guitarist Alexander “Alex” Reimon Onizawa following a groping allegation and subsequent arrest. The band was forced to cancel their planned tour at the time, and ultimately opted to move on as a foursome. The newly formed group of four grabbed international attention with the release of their fourth album Niche Syndrome in June of 2010. ONE OK ROCKhas since toured the globe performing in music festivals (Aftershock 2015, Vans Warped Tour 2014 & 2019) as well as arena shows, and have had their music featured in soundtracks of films (The Kingdom, Rurouni Kenshin Part I: Origins, Rurouni Kenshin Part II: Kyoto Inferno), as well as collaborated with pop music icon Ed Sheeran on their latest studio album single Renegades.
ONE OK ROCK was greeted by a young and diverse crowd hugging the pit rail and holding handwritten signs written both in English and Japanese stating their admiration. In many of their tracks, the band blends both English and Japanese lyrics with a balance of clean and heavy guitar riffs from lead guitarist Toru Yamashita while telling stories of young love, heartbreak, or speaking out about modern society and social reformation. With a short setlist, the band focused on performing many of their newest tracks from their tenth studio album Luxury Disease such as “Prove” and the very catchy, up-beat song “Neon.” Lead vocalist Takahiro Moriuchi dizzied the audience with countless spins and leaps as he worked his way across every inch of the main stage. The band closed their set with “Your Tears are Mine,” a softer ballad also from the new record. Most artists embark on lengthy tours to bring their music directly to their fans as well as create new ones, ONE OK ROCK succeeded in St. Louis on both accounts.
It is well known that Evanescence can be credited for ushering in a generation of frontwomen in hard rock music in the early 2000s. The lovechild of a couple restless teenagers (vocalist Amy Lee and original guitarist Ben Moody), the band came to fruition at a church camp back in 1995. Evanescence is infamous in the rock music Industry, receiving nominations including Grammy for Best Rock Album and Album of the Year in 2005. The group’s song “Bring Me to Life” from their first studio album Fallen (released in 2003) won awards including Best Hard Rock Performance (Grammy’s – 2004) and Choice Track – Rock Music (Teen Choice Awards – 2003). Evanescence has released four official studio albums and as many EPs, their music combining aggressive hard rock rhythms and classical piano with Lee’s euphonious voice soaring through choruses rife with poetic lyrics about sorrow, love, loss, and standing up for yourself.
Evanescence started the night with their signature blue, back-lit symbol raised only slightly higher than drummer Will Hunt and dove into their fourteen song setlist with “Broken Pieces Shine” from their latest album, 2021’s The Bitter Truth. Lead vocalist Amy Lee, a veteran of countless venues over the past twenty years, was as lively as ever. She could be observed pointing to fans and smiling while appearing to effortlessly belt out prolonged notes in expertly high octaves. Lee’s voice was authentic, clear and melodic. Lee paced across the stage microphone in hand, switching between a stationary keyboard positioned to stage left for quick access to her grand piano stage right, which emerged from the floor for songs such as “Call Me When You’re Sober” or “My Immortal.” Lee took a moment to give heartfelt thanks on behalf of herself and the band to the audience as they celebrated twenty years since the release of Fallen. She also gave the fans a brief, inspirational monologue about individuality and speaking up for themselves prior to performing “Use Your Voice,” the third single released ahead of The Bitter Truth. Not to leave any fans disappointed, the band closed with their biggest hit “Bring Me To Life.” Evanescence has filled venues and arenas in recent history as a co-headliner alongside other prominent rock bands such as Halestorm and Korn and will always be a band worth the price of admission all on their own.
The lights dimmed dramatically as the UK-based band and headliner of evening, Muse, took the stage. A blazing emblem ignited above drummer Dominic Howard and his DW drum set cycling through letters W, O, T, P before taking the shape of the album logo, which is an amalgamation of each letter. A backtracking of chanting riled up the audience as bassist/backing vocalist Chris Wolstenholme and lead vocalist/guitarist Matt Bellamy emerged backlit with a stage pyro blast to play the title track to their latest album, Will of the People. “Will of the People” is an ironically upbeat song about revolution, with the band performing the playthrough while wearing their signature mirror-faced masks featured in the song’s music video. A wall of strobe lights became perfectly synchronized hypnotic beams of light to Howard’s percussive grooves. Muse, in the most literal sense of the phrase, “set the stage” for the band’s most memorable tour yet. Although ONE OK ROCK and Evanescence occasionally used the additional runway into the pit, Bellamy and Wolstenholme frequently jogged and paced the long path playing their instruments and singing mere inches from captivated fans with a coordinated ascending and descending microphone stand at the end of the row. Wolstenholme took to it first with their second song of their set “Hysteria,” a track from their third studio album Absolution. With an intro riff that has arguably become a benchmark of talent for bassists across the globe, “Hysteria” begins with ultra-fast bass notes winding up and down the fretboard with an urgent yet groovy rhythm that has cemented Wolstenholme in the ranks of the most gifted bassists of modern rock music.
Matt Bellamy is a rare talent all his own, styling his singing with vibratos in high octaves while intermittently bending his whammy bar and higher strings to their limits, creating a distinctive and reverberating distortion. A lauded pianist, Bellamy writes songs striking the keys across octaves with arpeggios then switching to his guitar, trilling rapid notes intertwining classical music with alternative and progressive rock. The band had already impressed the sold-out crowd of Chaifetz Arena and took a brief intermission after performing “Won’t Back Down.” Following the intermission, the stage became illuminated again by blue and green strobes as the band reappeared and began to perform “Compliance,” a new track from their latest album. Constructed during the interlude and now an imposing presence behind the band, an enormous and menacing mirror-faced animatronic backdrop appeared, holding a single hand above the stage now lined with additional strobe lights bursting choregraphed rays on the crowd. The hooded cyborg seemed to surveil the audience as it alternated his gaze through the arena while Bellamy sang sarcastic lyrics of the benefits of an authoritarian government. Musepunctuates the final moments of the song with the first of many confetti barrages. The show continued on as the artists performed songs written over two decades from their nine studio albums including “Plug In Baby” from their first certified platinum record, 2001’s Origins of Symmetry, as well as other hit songs such as “Uprising” (The Resistance – 2009) and “Supermassive Black Hole,” a track featured in the popular Twilight movie series.
The show featured stunning pyrotechnics, gyrating mirrors, dense fog plumes, various wardrobe changes, showers of confetti, and a moment for celebrated drummer Dominic Howard to thump out a deep drum groove at the end of the platform with the newest member of the band, the multifaceted Dan Lancaster synthesizing on a keyboard and spinning out a techno-style beat. The show ended after an encore including new song “Kill or be Killed” as well as “Knights of Cydonia” from the 2006 album Blackholes and Revelations. Under the watchful eye of yet a different armored and horned demonic animatronic prop illuminated by blood red strobing lights, the band closed the show accompanied by choregraphed towers of fire jetting from several areas of the stage.
With a seemingly unlimited budget, unhinged creative imaginations, and a nearly unheard of twenty-two song setlist (not including interludes), Muse’s Will of the People Tour can only be rivaled by other iconic rock bands such as Kiss and Rammstein in terms of truly spectacular showmanship. The culmination of hard work of the band itself and the team behind the stages of this tour simply cannot be appreciated and admired enough. Even the opener, Evanescence, could be seen in the crowd enjoying the show along with fans. | Colin Williams