The last time I saw Muse was back at Wembley Stadium in 2010 on their Resistance Tour. I didn’t think I’d be blogging about them again after that, in fact I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to see them again. White Lies, Biffy Clyro and them all on the same bill? Awesome sound set up by Skan? It was quite simply, the show to end all shows.
Except, I have gone to see them again. Largely at my sister and brother in law’s insistence. (I did love their new songs but was convinced they wouldn’t measure up to before.) This last Saturday in May however, is proving to be impossible to forget – I feel compelled to describe it. The last time I talked about one of their gigs, I reckoned they were “all about the music.” See link. Now, I’m not convinced.
The afternoon didn’t start particularly well; we made the mistake of trying to get across London via the M25 on a bank holiday weekend. Result: what should have been an hour journey took three, and I ended up missing the support act I wanted to see, Bastille. My consolation? Dizzee Rascal, hardly the best warm up act for an alternative rock band, esepcially one as beloved as Muse. After a few scant minutes in which to collect our outraged selves, they took the stage. The atmosphere didn’t feel especially buoyant – a good part of the audience were propping up the bar apparently to avoid the Rascal – there was a rather limp explosion, a half hearted cheer, and there they were. I blinked. Was it really them? There was no proud entrance down the walkway, no protesters waving flags, no over grandiose gestures to herald their return to UK stadiums; it seemed an apologetic entrance for a band of their stature.
For the first few songs I bit back my disappointment, the venue was much smaller than last time, the sound set-up nowhere near as good as Wembley, no-one was standing up in our section, they seemed nervous, Matt making a false start at the beginning of “Super Massive”. Fourth song in though, they launched into “Knights of Cydonia” and I said to myself, ‘I’m blowed if I’m sitting this one out.’ The rest of the stadium was obviously thinking the same – there was a roar and it collectively leapt to its feet.
Everyone, even those high up in the nose bleeders, knew all the song words, something I’d not experienced at any of their previous shows, or indeed at any of bands I’ve seen over the years. Singing streamed back and forth across the stadium, creating a hugely resonant – and magnificent – wall of sound. It was strangely moving. These songs seem to mean a heck of a lot to a huge number of people; everyone sang along with conviction, often with arms aloft, as if their very life depended on it.
Muse have more songs to draw on than ever and whilst previously it was the classics such as “New Born,” “Time is Running Out,” and “Knights of Cydonia” that used to give me the shivers, tonight some of their newest felt the most profound – during “Survival” and “Uprising” I nearly sent myself flying head first over the seats; my brother in law said his stand out track was “Liquid State” – a winning performance from newly streamlined Chris, of one of the standout tracks from “The 2nd Law.”
There was plenty of spectacle too, some relating to the state of our world, bankers kicking the bucket, a businesswoman guzzling from a petrol pump and some just ridiculously wonderful fantasy – a forty foot light bulb with an acrobat beneath and Charles the steam spurting robot.
However, the most stunning thing about this show was Muse’s performance itself. Whilst Chris is stepping out of the shadows to become a skilled songwriter and singer, Matt has also raised his game. He’s always been rather a reserved showman; if you’re lucky he will mumble a few embarrassed words between songs or trash his guitar like a guilty schoolboy behind the piano. I don’t know if it’s because he’s been hanging out with Bono or if he’s genuinely feeling happier and more comfortable in his own skin, but tonight there was an extra dimension to his performance. He was connecting with the audience in a way I haven’t seen him do on previous tours; it was like an invisible barrier had gone, enabling him to project a host of emotions from the songs. During “Follow Me” he fell to his knees,; in “Madness” jumped off stage to pick out different members of the audience to serenade; during “Blackout” lay on his back, pouring out whatever was on his heart. He ran this way, that way, determined to sing to every single section of the audience. I vividly remember shouting,“Fight, fight, win, win!” idiotically – Matt standing miles down below, punching the air. They also seemed to be finishing their songs differently; instead of directly launching into a new song, they finished with a flourish and paused, allowing the song to “breathe” and the audience to fully show their appreciation.
My sister Sue and I have a long standing joke about Muse, saying they may as well walk on stage with paper bags on their heads – their music is completely out of this world, we couldn’t care less what they look like. After this show, I’m forced to withdraw that statement – I do mind now, quite a bit. It’s not just about the music any more Muse, it’s also about you – you seem to have found your souls.
Photos 1,3,4,6,7, 9 – Ru, 2 and 8 – G. Craig, 5 – http://www.muse.mu
(The 2nd Law: Unsustainable)
- Supermassive Black Hole
- Panic Station
- Knights of Cydonia
(Man with a Harmonica intro)
- Dracula Mountain
(Drum and bass jam)
- United States of Eurasia (Matt with piano on B-stage.)
- Dead Star
- Monty Jam
- Feeling Good
- Follow Me
- Liquid State (Chris on B-stage)
- Times is Running Out
(House of the Rising Sun first verse.)
- New Born.
- Unintended (on catwalk)
- Guiding Light
- Undisclosed Desires
- The 2nd Law: Unsustainable (With the Robot Charles)
- Plug in Baby. (With Sweet Child o’ Mine outro)
- The 2nd Law: Isolated System (extended version.)