Photos by Randall Vasquez.
Forgive me Musers for I have sinned, it’s been six years since my last Muse gig. Heck, has it really been that long? Well it’s going to be a bit longer, because we have 30 Seconds to Mars to see first.
30STM are practically co-headliners for this tour, and there are more than a few of their t shirts spread throughout the crowd. There’s a sense of anticipation and a few excited cheers as the stage is set out. From the opening strains of Up in the Air, you can see it’s the Jared Leto show. He has an ease with the crowd, demanding they crouch down, jump, sing along, and they’re happy to oblige. Perhaps it’s the pressure of opening for a band so accomplished at live shows, that they needn’t utter a word to have the crowd in the palm of their hand, but Leto’s demeanour feels more bossy than commanding.
Leto is an entertaining front man, on and off stage, as he runs into the seated section of the crowd to play The Kill. His zest and energy rub off on the audience and there’s a sense of joy, fun and sing-alongs that make it a good warm up for the main event. Playing their big hits and interacting well with the fans goes down well. There’s also an interlude where Leto demands rather than asks the crowd sing along for their new single. It certainly brings a new definition to audience participation, though it’s not what I’d call consensual.
When I was 19, I went to see Muse on their Black Holes and Revelations Tour. It was my first ever gig. I had their albums on non-stop in excited preparation. I came out of that concert with no voice, aching arms, and on a huge high from hearing all of these songs I loved in the flesh for the very first time. I’ve seen these lads fill Wembley Stadium twice, play Origin of Symmetry in its entirety and literally dry the first ten rows of a rain soaked festival crowd with their stage pyrotechnics.
I haven’t seen them live since they released their 6th studio album, The 2nd Law. I was disappointed with the ready-for-stadium pomp and grandeur that The 2nd Law provided, so I drifted off into the Museless wilderness. However, hearing songs live is a completely different beast to listening on your headphones, especially when you’re dealing with one of the best live bands around.
The show opens with new single Dig Down, bassist Chris Wolstenholme is playing his impressive looking kitara doubleneck bass and Matt Bellamy has a glowing Manson Matt Black guitar and matching glasses. It’s a sparse stage aside from the instruments, although the moving screens lining back of stage provide plenty of stunning visuals to match the music. The opener is followed by Psycho and Interlude, which precedes the big guns – Hysteria is a perfect live song that brings a lot of joy and nostalgia to the fans stood close to the stage.
The energy and power of Muse comes from the driving drums, electronics, and well crafted guitar riffs that are greater than the sum of their parts. This is a group of funny looking blokes from Devon who lack the movie star looks of Leto, but still became one of the biggest bands in the world. They let the music and the stage theatrics do the talking.
Matt teases the crowd with his Kaoss pad and it brings to mind a particular introduction from the last time I saw them. I know what’s coming and it’s almost too exciting to handle when the opening strains of Plug in Baby kick in. The older songs all have familiar intros and jams from my previous times seeing Muse and it’s comforting to hear they haven’t altered their winning formula, aside from lessening the number of stage props and hullabaloons.
I certainly envied the standing crowd who got the chance to completely let loose. The venue is a strange one. A tiny standing area that fits a few hundred people, three tiers of seating, and a lawn way back (which is completely packed). It feels crazy to see Muse from the seats. They’re a band made for leaping, head banging and getting completely lost in rocking out. Hard to do when you almost fall over the back of someone’s seat.
Half of the tracks from latest album Drones feature in the set, but it’s songs like Madness (complete with Matt’s speaking glasses), Uprising and Supermassive Black Hole that have the crowd cheering loudest. It’s a set that samples tracks from all but Muse’s debut. It’s a shame not to hear an early track, but when you have 7 studio albums, it’s tough to fit all of them in to a 90 minute set. I think I’m warming to The 2nd Law now…witnessing Dom and Morgan play Isolated System was compelling and the sound was so rich.
The confetti and streamers that burst forth during Mercy were the biggest embellishment of the night, (shaped like the little ‘drones’ on the cover of the new album) apart from Matt jogging off into the crowd to perform Starlight on a little B stage at the back of the 200s section. It’s nice to see some audience interaction and allow a breather for the fans by the stage who have been dancing and jumping wildly for an hour.
Near the end of the show, they crack out The Globalist and Drones, over 15 minutes of elaborate stadium rock that Matt warns is “gonna get real prog rock”. The visuals are bananas, lines of missiles pass on the screens before and explosion and a post-apocalyptic world surveyed by a fantasy figure. It’s all very dramatic and very Muse, especially when they leave the stage to the choir-like strains of Drones. It’s a very brief departure before a screaming encore of Uprising and Knights of Cydonia.
By the end of the gig I’m sweaty and joyous, comforted to find myself back in the mindset of that overexcited teenager at her very first gig over a decade ago, yelling my throat roar and punching the air. It’s so good to see these boys in the flesh again.
- Dig Down
- Map of the Problamatique
- Plug in Baby
- Isolated System (Morgan and Dom)
- Stockholm Syndrome
- Supermassive Black Hole
- New Kind of Kick (Matt on video)
- Dead Inside
- Jam (Dom and Chris)
- Starlight (Matt singing from the crowd)
- Time Is Running Out
- The Globalist
- Man With a Harmonica
- Knights of Cydonia
- Up in the Air
- This is War
- Kings and Queens
- The Kill
- City of Angels
- New single singalong
- Do or Die
- Closer to the Edge