Gigantic, inflatable robots. Acrobats sailing down massive screens. Synchronised trombone-dances. Gigantic laser-swords. I arrived at the London O2 arena expecting to see a Muse gig. Instead, I was whisked off onto a futuristic, neon-laced trip inside the band’s mind. And it’s a journey I didn’t want to leave. (Photo credit: Raphael Pour-Hashemi)
Muse exist in their own genre, somewhere between rock and sci-fi apocalyptic glamour. This wonderfully unique blend of futuristic gloom wrapped up in neon lasers, perfect vocals and a fist-pumping arena filled with 20,000 people is quite the spectacle to behold.
The show opens as the arena awaits with bated breath. You can practically feel the gasps echo around the venue, as 20,000 people all turn their eyes to one spot: that enigmatic hole in the floor of the middle of stage through which someone is coming out.
As it turns out, that someone is a spaceman. He runs off stage, clasping at his helmet dramatically. The audience laughs. Then, again. Surely this time its going to be one of the trio we know and love. Turns out, the spaceman’s back; and, once more, the audience laugh. It’s a great way to start the show, to be honest. Giving the audience musical blue-balls, a little tease before the true rock actions begins. And I wasn’t disappointed.
The fanfare blaze of ‘Pressure’ electrifies the arena, while the dancers prance about on stage in perfect unison, the movement of the instruments sleek and never missing a beat. The guitar riffs boom against the walls as the place is lit up in ‘Simulation Theory’ colours of purple and red. This is a motherfuckin’ Muse gig, and they’re making sure you know it. The atmosphere crackles with electricity, as everyone, from those forming mosh pits in the standing area to those standing way up high in the seats, dances and screams along to the already-iconic track. Introducing the lead singer via the means of a choreographed neon brass band is nothing short of genius.
‘Psycho’ blasts out at epic levels, the Drill Sergeant yelling his orders on the gigantic screen that looks like something out of a futuristic acid trip. Matt Bellamy struts down the guitar-shaped stage (that’s a sick choice, by the way), playing the riffs effortlessly, easily – all while belting out the chorus with minimal effort but maximum effect.
Everything’s so dramatic, so over the top, so in your face, that you can’t help but love it. Space-men on harnesses glide across the screen during ‘Break It To Me’ (which, I have to admit, being my least favourite on the album was actually so good live). You get whisked away on the ‘Simulation Theory’ tour, deep inside the simulation itself, forgetting the land you’ve come from and instead living in the neon-baited bliss that awaits you deep within the duplicate reality.
At the show’s climax, an inflatable alien emerges from the back of the stage, its jaw opening and closing as it reaches out across the band members. It’s a gasp-worthy moment, and one that Muse fans aren’t likely to forget.
The set-list manages to juggle the perfect amount of ‘Simulation’ and their older hits. They of course play the iconic ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ – which the crowd screamed along to at epic proportions – and fan-fave ‘Plug In Baby’. There’s ‘Hysteria’, ‘Mercy’, ‘Starlight’, ‘Uprising’, before ending on the iconic ‘Knights of Cydonia’. The newer, synth-infused tracks merge seamlessly with their earlier, heavier stuff. There’s something for every fan here, old and new, and the set-list itself is pretty much perfect. My only complaint would be that they didn’t include ‘Blockades’, but I guess you can’t win them all.
The trio are on top form, as ever. Matt’s vocals are perhaps even better than they are on the studio albums, while Dom’s dizzying drum skills remain unmatched, and Chris worked up the crowd like no other. To see them strut their stuff in the flesh truly cements them as one of the best bands of our lifetime; with skills seeming so effortless it’s almost jealousy-inducing. To watch them as a fan is an experience you won’t get at any other gig. Period.
See, Muse don’t really need the bravado that comes along with their iconic shows. Their musical talents are more than enough to carry through a two-hour set, and fans would still turn up in droves to worship their unusual musical gods. But, all of the tech, the flashing outfits and the gigantic robots elevate their performances into a theatrical experience as opposed to just a sick gig. And that’s what separates Muse from the rest.
Everything about the show was delivered with perfect rock precision, without coming across as cold or calculated. Matt’s vocals, especially, and general showmanship amplifies the already-electric atmosphere in the air, raising it to the point where it threatens to crackle and burst. As the crowd claps, cheers and screams, the band showcase an unforgettable 26-track experience, one that never falters in quality or energy. Even during the mellow version of ‘Dig Down’, where the arena was lit up by hundreds of mobile phone lights, the vivacity of the band never receeds.
Despite the fact that they barely interact with the crowd (I think they said a grand total of about 10 words to the London goers), you still leave the venue feeling as if you know them, at least a little. You’ve journeyed through the Simulation with them, and now it’s time to head back into the cold world of reality. For now, I’ll be awaiting the eventual release of the ‘Simulation Theory’ tour DVD (or something similar) – some of which they filmed at the gig I attended. Take me back into the Simulation like, now, please!
For more gig reviews, check out what I thought of Lady Gaga’s extravagent ‘Enigma’ show in Las Vegas. Or, for more on music, stalk my music habits and see how many times I’ve listened to Muse!