Review of Bristol University gig (19990227 Welcome to the Muscle Museum article)

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Amateur review of the 1999-02-27 gig in the Anson Rooms, Bristol University.

Bristol, England – Bristol University, Anson Rooms – supporting Gene

Until this point, the most anyone really knew about Muse was that they were young, they were from Devon, and their only commercially available EP was a bitch to get hold of. Fortunate enough to get hold of one of the 999 copies of the Muscle Museum EP, I had high expectations for the gig.

Between them, Muse and Gene had all but sold out the 800 capacity Anson Rooms. Tonight’s clientele were an even mix of students, fops and twentysomethings with nothing better to do on a Saturday night than go to a mouthwatering gig in Bristol’s best venue. The bar was full, and the foyer outside the hall was bustling with expectant Gene fans. The merchandising stand had, amongst other things, two boxes full of Muse’s first EP, the "Muse EP". I bagged 2 copies, and headed into the hall.

Stood near the front of the almost empty hall, my companion and I waited patiently, whilst speculating whether Muse could possibly live up to our unreasonably high expectations. Onto the stage walked a slight, 5’ 3" be-goateed Neil Hanlon lookalike. He was promptly followed by a lanky bloke and a strangely coiffed surfy-type. It didn’t look good. An electric double bass stood at the side of the stage, next to the usual smattering of keyboards.

With a click of distortion and a pleading look towards the sound engineers at the back of the room, the goateed chap, Matthew Bellamy, half-heartedly struck a chord on his hi-tech "electronic" guitar. The strains of the Buzzcocks on the PA came to an abrupt halt, and was replaced by the deafening crunch of the opening clatter of "Uno".

An enormous sound blasted from the stage, creating a ripple of surprise which touched everyone in the room. Using a fantastic gizmo, Bellamy’s guitar was made to sound as if there were three Metallica roadies on stage, hellbent on hammering their guitars into submission and, ultimately, destruction.

Storming through their set, the hall gradually filled up, as those on the peripheries of the main hall heard the amazing sounds coming from within. After each song, the applause gained in volume. "Muscle Museum", the track that Steve Lamacq had recently been playing regularly on Radio 1, probably gained the greatest approval from the impressed throng (though the new track "Fillip", with its unexpected tempo changes and fantastic hook, ran it close). During the closing bars of "Muscle Museum", Matthew Bellamy launched into an amazing bout of distorted howling, making his voice sound like a particularly expressive and versatile guitar. Amazed, the crowd briefly paused before bursting into a massive round of applause.

Even the lilting, falsetto-laden, almost bluesy ballad, "Falling Down" was performed with professionalism and emotion. For such a new band to even contemplate playing a song not designed to rabble rouse, at such an early stage in their career, showed their confidence in their material and ability. To their credit, they carried it off.

Thankfully, the "new" tracks that were given an airing this evening, proved to be easily as strong as the already available ones. As well as "Filip", the band served up another new gem called "Showbiz", which built up into a massive "chorus" (though the song didn't really conform to the usual verse, verse, bridge, chorus, verse, etc. format), and ended with Bellamy's voice soaring up into the rafters. Had they not been student-proof plastic, the glasses in the bar would have shattered at this point.

As Muse contentedly left the stage, the large audience gave a high-volume seal of approval, and was left to greedily anticipate the forthcoming album and inevitable global domination...

Checking the merchandise stand as the gig came to a close, I noticed that all the Muse CDs had now sold out. If you were one of the lucky ones to bag one, look after it. In a couple of years time, people will be offering you members of their own family to get hold of it.

Review by Matthew George.

See also

Back to Welcome to the Muscle Museum