By Jennifer Quinlin
Date / Venue: Sunday, May 26, 2013 - Emirates Stadium, London
It isn't every gig that causes you to almost lose your eyebrows but Muse's opening for the summer stadium tour in the UK and Europe does just that. The massive set, built to represent a stylised power station, includes an extremely long "thrust" stage that brings the band right through the
centre of the pit. During the opening sequence it seems that transmission is temporarily interrupted and suddenly an explosion erupts from the end of the thrust, causing screams, flying beer containers, and a sudden decline in the number of eyebrow waxing appointments.
As everyone slowly regathers their wits, and hopefully no stray body parts, the band take to the stage and launch into 'Supremacy', punctuated to great effect by huge flames shooting out of the top of the stacks above the stage. Despite it still being daylight the impact is impressive, to say the least, and is a perfect opener for the show.
Watching this gig you get the feeling that this is a band that was born to play huge stadiums. It's a performance, a show. Actors appear during 'Animals', a track about corporate greed - a banking-type man in a suit barging his way through the crowd, showering money, before he succumbs to a heart attack; and 'Feeling Good', a staple song given a twist by the female executive strutting down the stage, barking orders into her mobile phone, only to reach her demise by drinking from the vintage petrol bowser that rises from the end of the thrust stage.
Matthew Bellamy seems to be in his element on stage these days. Gone is the nervous, angsty young man - though some would say that this was one thing the fans loved about him - and before us is a confident, interactive performer. He struts and pouts all over the set, working the barrier
crowd into a lather before he heads down the steps and takes a stroll around the base of the stage, greeting and hi-fiving the masses. It should be noted that during the Coventry gig (yes, this fan girl was at that one, too) the length of the route caught Bellamy out and he had to start running to get to the right point for the song. He was heard to utter into the microphone "shit...fuck this is long...". Bassist Chris Wolstenholmespends a lot of his time on the thrust stage, too, including taking the limelight during his lead vocals on 'Liquid State', a cranking bass-driven number about the demon drink, and accompanies Bellamy on guitar during the ballad, 'Unintended'. Dominic Howard even manages to get some time out from behind his main kit and joins the others with a smaller setup. It's a fantastic opportunity to see them up-close, playing more off each other than to the crowd.
It would be remiss to not mention a key element of Muse stage shows, and that's the visuals and lighting. Oli Metcalfe, long-time Lighting Director for the band, has an impeccable eye for his craft and always seems to get the mood just right. The jaw-dropping visuals are the work of Media
Manager, Tom Kirk, and his incredible team. This crew knows exactly how to create an unforgettable production.
The setlist is one that should, hopefully, satisfy even the fussiest of Muse fans. Obviously the current album features heavily but there are classics such as 'Sunburn', 'Butterflies and Hurricanes', and 'Blackout' during which a massive lightbulb floats into the stadium and an aerialist appears from the base, cartwheeling and performing above the crowd. Crowd favourites 'Stockholm Syndrome', 'Time Is Running Out', and 'Plug In Baby'have the audience bouncing and jumping en-masse, leading to Bellamy's declaration later on Twitter "These last 2 nights were best crowds we have had in years! Fakkin' lahndan rahhks".
One of the highlights is the appearance of a very large robot. Somewhere along the line he was christened Charles, possibly by Bellamy, and when Charles rolls out onto the stage during 'Unsustainable' he is greeted with a huge cheer. This track caused a bit of a meltdown amongst some fans when a teaser snippet was released and it was feared that the band had moved into dub-step. With the eventual release of the full track it was apparent that all was well and Bellamy and co were just continuing with their habit of pushing their boundaries, deciding to replicate the computer tones of dub-step with their normal instruments. Charles featured in the music video and the stadium show is his live debut.
So, was it worth travelling from Wellington to the UK to see these shows? Absolutely. I know I'll never get to see anything like this in the southern hemisphere and Muse are in their element in a stadium. They are phenomenal musicians and have been smart enough to gather highly talented
technical people for their crew. I feel like I've experienced something very special...and hopefully by the time I return to New Zealand I'll have my right eyebrow back.
The 2nd Law: Unsustainable - First verse dialogue only
Supremacy with extended intro
Supermassive Black Hole
Panic Station (visuals of dancing world leaders)
Map of the Problematique - Who Knows Who outro
Hysteria - Back in Black outro
Knights of Cydonia - Man with a Harmonica intro
Dracula Mountain drum and bass jam (Lightning Bolt cover)
Butterflies and Hurricanes
Montpellier Jam - drum and bass jam
Feeling Good (Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse cover)
Time Is Running Out - House of the Rising Sun intro
Stockholm Syndrome - Freedom outro (Rage Against The Machine)
Blackout - featuring lightbulb aerialist
The 2nd Law: Unsustainable - featuring Charles the Robot
Plug In Baby - Sweet Child O' Mine outro (Guns N' Roses)
The 2nd Law: Isolated System - extended version
Uprising - extended outro
Chop Suey! (Richard Cheese cover of System of a Down)