Muse are always playing the game of escalation. Whenever they head into the studio, the next album needs to be better, and the tour to support it needs to bigger than the last. Their latest record definitely ticked that first box, 2018’s Simulation Theory being the best they’ve sounded for years. The question is, would the tour match the same level of quality? Luckily, I was able to find this out first-hand! With the sun beating down on a hot, beautiful June afternoon, it was the perfect weather for a stadium show, and the trio of acts that followed.
With the sun beating down on a hot, beautiful June afternoon, it was the perfect weather for a stadium show
First to the stage were Pale Waves. Having not listened to their material before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I found myself pleasantly surprised by their set, it was lively, catchy and uplifting, the perfect combination to get the crowd in the mood for the rest of the day. I’d describe their sound as Indie, but with some darker undertones to the music. Perhaps an Indie version of The Birthday Massacre (for those of you that follow EoE, you know this is a very good thing!) They appear to have been gaining a lot of momentum in a short space of time, and from my experience this is well deserved.
Next up was the legendary Tom Morello. Yes, the Tom Morello. From the get-go he laid down his legendary godlike riffs and guitar-work, playing tracks from his fourth album, The Atlas Underground, as well as hits from Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Of course, there were political statements made throughout his time on stage, a highlight being a moment where he played his guitar with his teeth, revealing a ‘Fuck Farage’ sign stuck to the back of it. My respect for this man just keeps on growing! The set was topped off with “Killing in the Name” and a cover of John Lenon’s “Power to the People”. A very fitting ending, indeed!
Then it was time for the main event, as Muse opened with the alternate reality version of “Algorithm”. It was a massive, bombastic start to the proceedings, with neon-clad dancers playing glowing trumpets surrounding a podium at the end of a catwalk, where Matt Bellamy arose, he himself in LED shades, wielding a shining power glove. This was all whilst Chris Wolstenholme and Dom Howard pounded out a cinematic drumbeat either side of the stage.
Needless to say this theme of bombast didn’t let up for the rest of the night, this show being not just the biggest level of production I’ve ever seen them do, but some of the biggest production I’ve ever seen at a gig ever! We’re talking a massive LED screen, displaying stunning visuals; a small army of neon dancers that changed costumes and routines for different songs; performers in mech-suits; performers scaling up and down the massive LED screens in time to the music, the visuals syncing perfectly to their movement; and a gargantuan skeletal robot (lovingly dubbed as ‘Murphy’) making an appearance towards the end of the show. There was honestly so much going on, that I could write an essay on it! There were many stunning sights to behold, and the fact that it was all pulled-off so flawlessly with such finesse is something to be applauded. Plus it all kept true to the 80’s aesthetic that the band were going for, they really nailed it.
The trio worked together as a well oiled unit, delivering some powerful, epic moments.
As for the band themselves, they were absolutely on-point, as always. Granted, it’s not the very best I’ve seen them, but even on an average day a Muse live set is still mind-blowing. This was definitely well above that, and extremely solid to boot. The trio worked together as a well oiled unit, delivering some powerful, epic moments. From Matt Bellamy’s roaring riffs and solos, to Chris Wolstenholme’s unrelenting, additive basslines and Dom Howard’s superb barrage of drumbeats, it was epic. The atmosphere was truly electric, and the crowd lapped in every second of the 2+ hour performance.
There were the expected tracks off the latest album, such as “Pressure”, “The Dark Side” and “Thought Contagion”, as well as the gospel version of “Dig Down.” The latter prompted the audience to shine the lights from their phones, making the moment magical. I was baffled by the absence of “Blockades” and “The Void” on the setlist, however, especially as the latter feels like it was made to be played in a stadium, but then there was such a diverse range of track played, that it would’ve been hard to squeeze them in. The surprise appearance of “Bliss” is what truly made my night, it was glorious to see this being performed live again, and to such a high standard. I may have lost my mind at that point.
All being said, it could be argued that Muse played it safe with the set. The setlist has barely changed since the start of the tour a few months ago, and mainly focuses on hits, such as “Supermassive Black Hole”, “Maddness” and “Starlight”, to name a few. In fact, the arrangement of tracks is quite pop-oriented at times. But then, this all works in favour of the current album-cycle, to the point where it all seems like a no-brainer. Plus, with such a massive production that needs to run like clockwork, it’s hard to give the set much tweaking. Besides, “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” and the fabled “Metal Medley” proved that they still have their heavy side. The former is probably the heaviest and best version of the track I’ve ever witnessed, and the latter is a glorious 15 minute whistle-stop foray into some of their heaviest material. Granted, it feels more like a collection of songs played back-to-back, rather than a proper medley, but it’s a hell of a ride!
Overall, it can be easy to nit-pick at the show, but that would be missing the point entirely. As I said earlier, Muse like to play the game of escalation, and here they’ve escalated well beyond anything they’ve ever done before, then some! I’d expect no less from a stadium show, and this is the celebration worthy of such a venue. The end result is an audio-visual experience that is a massive spectacle, and a exposition of the cheesier, more fun side of the band. After this, I have no idea how they can make their live shows any more grandiose. I can honestly say that I’ll remember this night for a long time to come, and will cherish the memories of it for that very reason. For those of you that are going to see Muse on this tour, you’re in for a real treat!
- Algorithm (Alternate Reality Version; shortened)
- Drill Sergeant
- Break It to Me
- Plug In Baby
- Pray (High Valyrian) [Matthew Bellamy song]
- The Dark Side
- Supermassive Black Hole
- Thought Contagio
- The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
- Dig Down (Acoustic Gospel Verison)
- Undisclosed Desires
- Time Is Running Out
- Houston Jam (‘Futurism’, ‘Unnatural Selection’, ‘Micro Cuts’ snippets)
- Take a Bow
- Metal Medley (Stockholm Syndrome / Assassin / Repears / The Handler / New Born)
- Knights of Cydonia