Monday 27 May 2013

Muse @ The Emirates Stadium

Say what you will about 'The 2nd Law', Muse sure as hell know how to put on a show.

There's a reason the Devonshire three-piece have become one of our countries greatest rock treasures: phenomenal live shows comprising incredible rock anthems and eye-watering spectacle.  And now with six albums released, there are more tracks than ever to choose from - arguably leaving the set list thinly spread, despite its length.

The reason?  Much of the set was taken from the latest album (pictured), which was far less well received than the band's previous material - especially when lost on the second central stage.  As such, where fan favourites like Knights of Cydonia and Plug In Baby sent the crowd into a moshing, chanting frenzy, recent tracks relied on visual gimmicks to entertain: from cartoon politicians amusingly dancing to Panic Station, to Bellamy's light-up glasses on Madness, and a giant robot that accompanied dub-step track The 2nd Law.

That's right: a giant robot.  Just as Muse's music has become grander and more bombastic, so too have their shows.  Within seconds of the band arriving on stage, huge pillars of flame sent a wave of heat over the crowd, whilst a backdrop of screens behind the band displayed mesmeric graphics and cinematics throughout the show, depicting a vague, Orwellian apocalypse of machines destroying humanity.  Elsewhere we saw a woman drowning herself in petrol during an ironic rendition of Feeling Good, a lightbulb floating over the audience like a hot air ballon, and the aforementioned robot.

As entertaining as the spectacle was, it often overshadowed the music.  The three bandmates are incredibly talented instrumentalists, but frequently the crowd were distracted from their musicianship as they gasped at the wider picture.  One of the strongest moments of all was penultimate song Uprising that saw the whole audience punching the air in a revolutionary salute to the band - it's clear that no matter what direction Muse take, their fans will be loyal to the end.

Ultimately, this was Matt Bellamy's show.  Interludes featuring bassist Christopher Wolstenholme  and drummer Dominic Howard fell flat, whilst Liquid State (written and performed by Wolstenholme) lacked the star quality of Bellamy's leadership.  They frequently took a backseat to Bellamy - as he paraded through the crowd on Undisclosed Desires (inducing countless screams of "I love you!"), it was clearly him the fans came to see.

And rightly so: it's Bellamy's vision and energy that have caused Muse's rise to fame.  Watching him strut across the stage doing what he does best is spectacle enough.