Live Music + Gig Reviews

Muse @ Arena, Sheffield

18 November 2006



About six years ago, Muse played the Leadmill in Sheffield, supported by a little known band called Coldplay. It’s hard to imagine either band at the famous venue these days, especially Muse whose sound has grown ever more epic and huge. Only an arena would seem like a suitable venue for music of this breadth and scope.

Tonight’s support act was Noisettes, who may not go on to Chris Martin-style levels of world domination, but still managed to get the hoards standing at the front bouncing up and down in unison. The trio’s garage-rock sound is impossible not to move to, and in lead singer Shingai Shoniwa they have a genuinely charismatic frontwoman.

They work well as a unit too, with Dan Smith’s power chords keeping up the energy levels and drummer Jamie Morrison holding everything together at the back, they sound incredibly tight. Shoniwa is the main focus point, prowling the stage like a born rock star, and names like PJ Harvey, The White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs were easily brought to mind. Whether they’ve got cross-over appeal is debatable, but songs such as Scratch Your Name and especially new single Don’t Give Up live long in the memory. An excellent set from one of the year’s better new bands.

Muse’s stage shows have become ever more spectacular over the years, and it was hard to imagine quite how they’d top their mind blowing set at this year’s Leeds Festival. The banks of TV screens had disappeared, to be replaced by some kind of spaceship which surrounded Dom Howard’s drum kit. The opening bars of Take A Bow struck up and Matt Bellamy appeared, clad all in white.

Take A Bow seemed a bit of a flat opener to be honest, but as soon as Bellamy rushed over to the white piano set up in the centre of the stage to launch into the familiar opening chords of Newborn, all natural order was resumed. Muse haven’t gained the reputation as the finest live band in the country by accident, and this show was no exception.

This was a set with so much energy it seemed unreal. Bellamy threw the requisite rock star shapes, often dropping to his knees while effortlessly pulling off another superb guitar solo and having the audience completely in the palm of his hand. There was understandably a lot of material from Black Holes And Revelations (with Invincible and Map Of The Problematique already sounding like old friends) but older fans weren’t disappointed, with a adrenaline fuelled Plug In Baby being one of the highlights of the evening.

The back screen projection was a separate star of the show, showing images of deep space during Starlight and most spectacularly, an army of marching robots during a crunching Supermassive Black Hole. At one point, the spaceship containing Howard appeared to light up in flame – it was a very special moment.

There were quieter moments too (with the audience getting out the cigarette lighters and mobile phones for Soldier’s Poem), but it was the full on rock moments that make Muse such an invigorating prospect live. Time Is Running Out was the evening’s prime singalong moment, while an awe-inspiring Stockholm Syndrome saw Bellamy laying his amplifier on top of his guitar before attempting to surf on it.

We even received two encores, with giant balloons filled with red glitter floating above the Arena crowd during an extended version of Bliss, before finishing off proceedings with the astonishing Knights Of Cydonia. Screens blasted out the words “you and I must fight for our rights”, the crowd pumped the air, and Bellamy ended up curled in the floor in the foetal position while huge jets of steam erupted from the stage.

The only moans were the songs they missed out (no Exo-Politics? No Feeling Good? No Showbiz?), but to be fair to Muse they’d have been playing until 3am if they’d fitted in all of their best moments. The best live band in Britain? You’d better believe it.

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