Sunday 25 March 2018

Muse at 3Arena review: 'It wasn’t so much a concert as much as it was an experience'


John Brennan

Muse have always been a bit off the wall, but even for them this was a bit special.

With over a half dozen drones arcing their way lazily above the audience throughout the gig, a revolving stage in the centre of the arena, and a light show which threw out more colours than you'd see if somebody took a hand grenade to a rainbow, it truly was a spectacle unlike anything the 3Arena has experienced in recent memory.

This was a show that was designed to immerse the audience – and it did. It wasn’t so much a concert as much as it was an experience.

I’d seen Muse twice before. In 2006 and 2008 and admittedly my fandom has waned in recent years, but I left the 3Arena last night safe in the knowledge that I’d seen one of most polished and impressive live acts on the planet.

With the arena filling up gradually, the PA came on encouraging fans to video and photograph the show to their hearts content - but urged the would be instagrammers of the world to knock off their flashes as it would affect their experience and with that away we went.

The lights dimmed and the surprisingly sedate album closer, the eponymous track from their latest album Drones, played throughout the arena – this proved to be the calm before the storm, because moments later lead singer Matt Bellamy, in his best peacock impression, strutted onto the stage and kicked off with the ostentatious ‘Psycho’.

The early part of the set list was weighted heavily in favour of the latest album – even accompanied with imagery on the screens above and around the stage of bombs, explosions, cyborgs – pretty much everything any self-respecting tinfoil-hat-clad conspiracy theorist would want. Ridiculous in the extreme – but this is Muse after all.

Following ‘Psycho’, the band seamlessly went into ‘Reapers’ with all of its Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen-esque tapping heroics. Plenty of head nodding and foot stomping to begin proceedings.

Early on, actual drones were lowered from the roof of the venu. Initially this seemed to sap the energy out of those standing. There was so much going on visually. From the seated section it seemed like we’d entered some oddly entertaining Orwellian dystopia  – admittedly one with a great soundtrack.

A throwback came early as the played ‘Bliss’ from 2001’s Origin of Symmetry, before returning to the more radio friendly ‘Dead Inside’ from their latest album.

Lead singer Matt Bellamy has always styled himself as a bit of an odd ball musical genius, so it was particularly strange to see him ditch the instruments for large parts of ‘Dead Inside’ and just saunter across the stage with a mic, especially when the man is usually behind a grand piano or some sort of space aged guitar that looks like it may have belonged to Buck Rogers.

Muse have a knack for reinventing themselves every four or five years, and in a sense this is just their latest iteration.

The visuals during ‘The Handler’ were genuinely spellbinding.  A set of eyes on the screens above the drummer played centre stage, then two huge hands were projected onto the screens above the bassist and leader guitarist. The lads (Matt Bellamy and Chris Wolstenholme) appeared to be tethered to puppet strings attached to these projected hands – the strings moved where they did. Madcap stuff but a joy to behold.

The Devon rockers played a few classics from Black Holes and Revelations, Origin of Symmetry and Absolution to cater to the older members of the audience – there was quite a few of us too.

It was hard to keep up as they jumped from album to album – each with such different sounds.

By the time they got to ‘The Globalist’ – an obscenely over-the-top 10 minute ballad - the crowd were in the palm of their giant projected hands.

I should probably mention that they had what looked like a space ship fly independently around the entire stage for this song. I’ve never seen anything like it at a gig. After this the lights dimmed, but we all knew there’d be an encore.

It began with the warbling ‘Take a Bow’ which seemed like an intro into some sort of prog rock apocalypse. This was followed by ‘Mercy’ - another new album plug, but they saved the best for last as they finished with the galloping ‘Knights of Cydonia’.

An exceptionally polished and visually spectacular performance.

Online Editors

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