Times Online 2006-11-14 – Muse

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A review of the 10th November 2006 Manchester Evening News Arena gig.

First Night reviews

The Times November 14, 2006



Stephen Dalton at MEN Arena, Manchester


FOR their biggest British tour to date, Muse are pulling out all the stops. Ablaze with kaleidoscopic lights, supersized video screens and a hydraulic drum riser mounted on what looks like an upturned Dalek, their retro-futuristic stage show is unlike anything seen since the heady heyday of 1970s progressive rock.

Riding high on the charttopping success of their new album, Black Holes and Revelations, the bombastic West Country trio are living proof that nothing succeeds like excess.

Thankfully, Muse specialise in songs that are huge and flamboyant enough to transcend the patent absurdity and potential hubris of such a setting. An epic fusion of shimmering disco-rock and sci-fi paranoia, Knights of Cydonia, their opening number at the Manchester Evening News Arena, felt like mini-opera in itself.

The guitarist and singer Matt Bellamy also rose to the occasion, striking gladiatorial poses in an eccentric outfit that resembled a Victorian greatcoat, complete with a single Byronic sleeve extension for extra windswept melodrama. Had he arrived on stage atop a two-headed stallion, the overall effect would have been no less bonkers.

The show, dominated by tracks from the new album, remained at this hysterical pitch for almost two hours. Bellamy, alternating between piano and guitar, jammed every available second of stage time with wounded falsetto sobs, baroque keyboard flourishes, cod-classical allusions and shuddering blasts of feedback. The brawny funk rhythms of Supermassive Black Hole lumbered a little, while the usually nimble Plug In Baby sounded uncharacteristically sluggish — none of which appeared to trouble the enraptured young crowd, who roared along to every note.

Employed indiscriminately, Muse’s chief strength can feel like a weakness. Around the middle of their set, all this overstuffed bombast began to work against them. As the intergalactic anthems stacked up, each more thumpingly preposterous than the last, their emotional clout began to diminish. Bellamy generally includes one or two more introspective songs on every album, many of which rank among his best work. A few such softer moments might have provided some much needed variety and respite from all this operatic overkill. The cumulative effect here was rather like being force-fed an endless supply of overrich chocolate cake.

Muse ended the show, as they began, with another grandiose showstopper from Black Holes and Revelations. Surly and swollen, Take a Bow crashed over Manchester like a tidal wave. Screens crackled with footage of disco-dancing Martian robots. Giant pink balloons full of red confetti zigzagged out into the crowd. The overall effect was dazzling, audacious and triumphant. But ultimately a little exhausting.

The tour continues: Birmingham NEC, Nov 14- 15; Nottingham Arena, Nov 17; Sheffield Arena, Nov 18; Newcastle Metro Arena, Nov 19; London Wembley Arena, Nov 21-23

See also

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