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DIE-HARD AGGIE FANS: Students show their Aggie colors at the home game vs. Nevada. The Aggies came so close, but lost 31-28. Click Arts&Life for a link to photos. / Photo by Heather Routh

Today's word on journalism

Monday, October 22, 2007

Can't Scare the Old Gray Lady:

"Good journalism for an intelligent general audience is hard. And we’re really good at it. Taking on The Times is not as easy as waving a credit card and proclaiming yourself 'fair and balanced. . . .' We have every reason to feel confident that we can hold our own if [Rupert] Murdoch decides to build The Journal beyond its business-reader base. In all the Murdoch parlor-gaming, I don’t hear anyone suggesting that he would attempt to match the depth of our coverage in culture, science, education, health, religion, sports, lifestyle, etc., etc. Not to mention business coverage that even devout Journal readers find they can't afford to miss."

-- Bill Keller, editor, New York Times, on Murdoch's promised Wall Street Journal challenge to Times national dominance, Oct. 16, 2007


Epic-rock band Muse raises the bar for pyrotechnics

By Jon Jacobs

September 13, 2007 | The McKay Events Center has a large parking lot. Hordes of fans have made pilgrimages from all over the state to see the main event, Devon-based epic-rockers, Muse. The resulting crowd fills the entirety of the parking lot, waiting for admittance to one of the most anticipated concerts of the year.

After an eternity of waiting, eager fans are finally admitted into the venue, where minor chaos ensues; fans run to every corner of the venue searching for merchandise, drinks, and the stage. Once the herd settles and makes their way to the center stage, the lights go dim and the show begins.

Opening band Immigrant starts the night off with high energy and dancy grooves, pumping up the adrenaline in the crowd. After their allotted five-song set, middle band Juliette and the Licks take stage. The crowd seems less interested in this Ani Difranco-turned-rock-band outfit, but the energy remains. They bid adieu and the lights return.

During the set-up for Muse, anticipation is noticeably high, fans stand around with their hands neatly in their pockets, trying amicably to strike up casual small talk with the fans closest them. After about 20 minutes, anticipation seems to be turning to paranoia; What if Muse doesn't take the stage?

Fortunately, this feeling subsides as the lights dim and battle-worthy chants of "Muse, Muse, Muse," ensue, echoing through the crowd. Finally the members take stage followed by a hysteria of cheers and applause. Tension builds as walls of noise are transmitted from the speakers until the moment arrives where the opening chords of Knights of Cydonia are played. When singer Matthew Bellamy issues his fierce, Freddy Mercury-worthy falsetto I hear the not so subtle scream of "Muse still rocks" from a fan next to me, and the feeling is reciprocated by the crowd as they bounce to catchy guitar-licking chorus.

With the new additions of intensive pyrotechnics, it is difficult not to be overcome by the grandeur of it all. Three 20-foot screens are hoisted above the band, lights and cameras in nearly every conceivable place, several units that could only be described as space-age heaters are held in symmetric locality to the band. Only one word can be used to describe the occasion: spectacle.

The high-octane energy remains as crowd favorites including the techno beat turned rock n' roll of Map of the Problematique, the early '90s, Prince-inspired Supermassive Black Hole, and the jaw-dropping bass-riffed Hysteria. Spirits are high, and adrenaline is fueled through our ears."How could it get any better" the unspoken question.

As if in answer to our question, Bellamy takes off his electric guitar and exchanges it for an acoustic model. Muse unplugged? Hmmm. . . . After waiting a few moments, they flow into the Queen-inspired ballad Soldier's Poem. Images of the world, war, and police forces are cascaded upon the screens as the lights alternate from dim to non-existent. The change of mood is a welcome one as the crowd sways back and forth to the mid-tempo tune.

The calmness is not kept for long as Muse soon returns to form with the lightning fast solo of invincible. It is a unique sight to see fingers moving that quickly in a harmony of precision. The set continues with the demonically fast tempo until the curiously '90s pop-oriented Plug in Baby, after which the bands leaves the stage.

The crowd is not fooled. We know there is more rocking to be done, and so no one moves. Chants of "Muse, Muse, Muse," return with a vengeance. After a few moments, the room goes completely black and a familiar voice echoes over the crowd. Words are projected over the screens behind the stage. The voice speaks of the evils of the secret societies and covert operations that plague the world, almost pleading for their destruction. The words and voice belong to none other than John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Upon this discovery, the crowd is again assaulted with the sounds of Muse's musical intricacy with the synthesizer -heavy introduction to Take a Bow. The obviously politically themed song is well-received by the crowd as they continue to dance in adoration of the band.

The encore is short-lived but productive, as Muse plays concludes the set with one of its most popular tracks, the finger-licking-goodness of the guitar-heavy Stockholm Syndrome, complete with hard-rocking jam out finale. As Bellamy screeches his guitar in wails of sound after kicking over his amplifier, the entire stage is lit up in lights, explosions and even giant balloons filled with paper. Madness of percussion, bass tapping, and guitar solos fill the room and are suddenly silenced as the band walks off stage.

The final words come from drummer Domminic Howard, "How does it feel to be the best city on this tour?" To which elated, even if somewhat warn-out fans, reply with screams of idolatry and worship. The lights return, and the crowd staggers off. This is a concert that will not soon be forgotten.


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