Times Online 2006-11-12 – Muse

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A review of the Muse concert at the SECC in Glasgow, 7th November 2006.

From The Sunday Times
November 12, 2006

The Review: Brilliance amid the bombast

David Pollock

Anyone other than an 18-year-old goth with a science-fiction fixation might examine the bombast and outright pomposity of Muse’s recorded works and be put off listening to an otherwise talented and creative band. Yet that’s precisely why they work so unaccountably well in the live arena.

Matt Bellamy and his accomplices combine both meticulous creativity and arch belligerence, and run with them in an often spectacular show that seems beamed in from a particularly noisy future. Not since Pink Floyd has a large-scale band created such an unashamedly high-concept rock spectacle, and got away with it.

Continuing the sci-fi theme explicitly adopted by the band for their recent Black Holes and Revelations album, the impressive stage layout resembles a mixture of the sets from Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Two grids of brightly lit scaffolds shaped like industrial cranes criss-cross the stage, with fluorescent tube lights hung between them, while large video screens pepper the front of the hall. When the image feed and lights work in unison it seems like the band are appearing in 3-D, and it’s surely the most spectacular live setting of the year.

The crowd, in excess of 10,000, was primed for an energetic performance. Bellamy is a ball of edgy frustration. A musical polymath, the frontman is equally adept at rock guitar, classical piano, and singing in a sub-Bowie falsetto, while his supply-teacher good looks are exaggerated by mascara and a stern, almost fascistic uniform of black shirt and trousers.

In contrast, the bassist, Chris Wolstenholme, and secondary guitarist, Morgan Nicholls, stand like drones at Bellamy’s side, while the drummer, Dominic Howard, is all but buried beneath the lights.

The musical set is a killer, 20-odd songs littered with mountainous guitar riffs and unexpected periods of emotive, piano-led calm. The melancholy yet quickfire buzz of Take a Bow opens the show, quickly segueing into Hysteria’s familiar sonic, booming, guitar intro. Yet by the fourth song, Butterflies and Hurricanes, Bellamy is sitting at his piano, bathed in a blue spotlight and playing a fluttering coda against a fairy-lit backdrop.

It’s this balance of power and control that make Muse so compelling live. The strident yet melodic metal of Plug in Baby, New Born and Bliss are among the highlights. Their snarling cover of Nina Simone’s [sic] Feeling Good continues to defy the questionable logic of covering such a classic, while Supermassive Black Hole is a titanic song, this time penned by the band themselves, accompanied by an animation of CGI robots performing a dance routine.

One smashed guitar at the end of Stockholm Syndrome and a billowing, seemingly never-ending cloud of stage smoke to obscure their exit later, and it’s hard not to shelve those preconceptions and praise Muse as a band whose live show must be seen and heard to be believed.

See also

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