Live Music + Gig Reviews

Muse @ Roundhouse, London

30 September 2012



If you can’t enjoy yourself at a Muse gig, then you’re probably dead. Live, the endless debates around brostep and dubstep, about if it’s tongue-in-cheek or not, of whether they believe the conspiracy theories or just want to distract you from their love of Queen, all just melts away in the blast of the grin-inducing showiness of it all.

This wasn’t even Muse in their normal habitat. For them, 5000 people in a shed formerly used to turn trains counts as low-key. Okay, there were still huge screens flanking them, flashing up scrolling computer code and showing what looked like a North Korean Transformers remake, Chris Wolstenholme’s bass still had sufficient fret-lighting to confuse any passing jumbos and Matt Bellamy still looked that he’d got ready by being tarred and then rolled in diamonds, but other than that this was low-key.

Low key, but still bonkers. Bonkers, ridiculous and kind of glorious. When you consider how much Celine Dion was paid to perform in Vegas, you wonder how much Muse could pocket to do a residency. Knights Of Cydonia in front of a model of the pyramids just seems a perfect fit – in the absolute nicest way possible.

Unsurprisingly the set was littered with numbers from the newly released The 2nd Law. Of those, the opening Supremacy sounds sufficiently like Kashmir for Bellamy to send a personal greeting to Jimmy Page, who apparently was in the building. It’s quite a thing though, as histrionic as an musophobic opera diva late for her audition forced to share a cab with a travelling rat salesmen. It treats the Led Zeppelin influence in the exact same way that Puff Daddy and Godzilla did: not Eastern and mystical, but as the backdrop for something intent on levelling buildings. Next to that, the shameless Another One Bites The Dust aping funk dynamic of Panic Station and the stuttering electro-pop of Madness, with Wolstenholme producing a noise which sounds like a cat that has swallowed a Van De Graaf generator being stroked, are almost restrained. But they’re still great, weird and endlessly entertaining.

Whenever they’re criticised for turning the absurdity up to unicycle, you’re left to wonder what they’d be without it. And then you realise, we know. We know, because of the first album when they were just a slightly pale west-country Radiohead. When the evening reverts to that, as on the Wolstenholme sung Save Me, it is a bit pedestrian. Particularly when compared to the magnificent Supermassive Black Hole, sparking like someone left a Prince robot out in the rain. Or the stomping Time Is Running out, or the sheer unabashed chutzpah of Uprising, which when accompanied by imagery resembling Russian propaganda posters from the 1920s and a sea of punching fists, makes you wonder why Muse don’t actually run for office.

They end, in a slightly damp-squib fashion, with the Olympic theme Survival. Which is an odd one: despite them throwing a lot of the normal tricks at it, it doesn’t quite work. A misfire, but not one which particularly alters the overarching feeling – that of sheer enjoyment. It’s a spectacle, and (good) spectacles tend to be occasionally silly and occasionally overblown. It’s what makes them fun. Of the über-bands in the world today, the ones that fill stadia and sell millions, Muse seem to get that better than anyone.

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