Six years. It’s been six long years since I last saw Muse live. The last time I saw them live they were touring their phenomenal ‘Black Holes & Revelations’ album in arenas up and down the country. In the gap since I last saw them they’ve sold out stadiums (including Wembley) in Europe and made a good hearty crack at filling arenas in the US. They’ve also released two albums; 2009s so-so ‘The Resistance’ and this years ‘The 2nd Law’ which they are currently touring. And what an album it is. If you haven’t listened to it I strongly recommend you log into iTunes and bag yourself a copy. From the Bond-esque ‘Supremacy’ to the politically fuelled ‘Animals’ its a phenomenal listen. I tell you this not to smother you with fandom, but to set the scene. This is not going to be a critical review of a concert, it’s going to be a fans perspective of a gig.
The support act for the evening came in the form of ‘The Joy Formidable’, a new band from North Wales that are currently working on their second album. I have to be honest that a) I’d never heard of them and b) I went in with the prejudice that support bands are pretty terrible, they’re what you have to endure in order to appreciate the main act more. With that said I was pretty damn impressed! This was the last night they were supporting Muse, and add to the fact this gig was the closest to their families you could clearly tell they were giving it their all. They even smashed the drum kit at the end. Once I got home I even googled them to find out more about them, and that really is the point of a support band, to promote a lesser known band and warm up the crowd. Top marks I say!
The atmosphere for Muse was electric, from the moment the house lights went out and the opening section of ‘Unsustainable’ blared out of the speakers till the very end of the gig you could not physically wipe the smile off my face. After the opening Bellamy comes down to the crowd level walk way and begins to play new album opener ‘Supremacy’ upon which everyone in the main bowl begins either jumping, head-banging or a strange combination of both and everyone screams “supremacy!” during the chorus. Before ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ begins, the giant inverted pyramid of video screens lowers over the band. These screens can move around to display in any shape they so need. They even quietly hide away when a song doesn’t call for them, though most of the new songs are complimented with video shows. This stage design allows for all the seats around the back of the band to be filled, increasing the capacity of the venue if the arena allows. ‘Panic Station’ features videos of weird dancing funky hippo things, ‘Animals’ tells the story of a City banker going from boom to bust (with fake stock market quotes scrolling round the bottom displays), ‘Madness’ features Bellamy wearing video projecting glasses and the first use of lasers in the show.
Each band member is on top form for the show. Bellamy has really come into his own lately, if you watch shows from even the ‘Black Holes & Revelations’ era he can seem a little wooden, mainly due to his roles not only as frontman but also as guitarist and pianist. Here in songs such as ‘Follow Me’ and ‘Undisclosed Desires’ he’s freed of the restraints and is able to walk around the stage and interact with the crowd. In the latter he even jumps down to the crowd and plays with peoples video cameras etc. Touring with U2 a few years back has clearly had an influence on him as he appears to have caught a severe case of the ‘Bonos’. Bassist Chris Wolstenholme takes the role of lead vocalist on ‘Liquid State’ a song about his 10 year battle with alcoholism, and does a bloody good job of it too. Obviously he can’t match the sheer bombasticity (if thats even a word) of Bellamy’s vocal but certainly delivers a powerful performance. Drummer Dom Howard would almost get lost in the mix if it weren’t for the performance of ‘Uprising’ in which, after ‘New Born’ where the pyramid encapsulates the band, the video screen shows Howard performing Kung-Fu on a number of silhouetted baddies. ‘Badass’ is understating it.
By the time the second encore began time was running out (pun intended) for us to make our way to the train station, we slip away during the beginnings of set closer ‘Knights of Cydonia’ for the long train journey ahead. Worth every penny of the £55 ticket price and my head aches from noshing and my legs could do with a good sit down. Great night.
Muse Manchester Arena 1/11/2012 Set-List:
Map Of The Problematique
Supermassive Black Hole
Time Is Running Out
Plug In Baby
(Encore 1) Isolated System
(Encore 2) Starlight
Knights Of Cydonia
By Ian Dutton