Live Review: Muse + Birds of Tokyo - Allphones Arena, Sydney (13.12.13)

No matter how you feel about their often overwhelming sonic transformations, Muse will always be one of those few bands that brings you a complete and arresting experience live; one which blasts away everything that came before it with a healthy range of lofty rock jams, all lead by Matt Bellamy’s piercing vocals.

In what was the very last stop of their The 2nd Law world tour, Sydney’s Allphones Arena was given yet another memorable Muse concert; driven steadily by their impressive live show which consisted of strobing screens, layered like a five-tier pyramid, constantly floating apart and coming back together while the trio of rock gods gave fans their all.

Aussie rock band Birds of Tokyo capped off their massive year as the official support act for the Australian leg of Muse’s latest tour; the ARIA favourites held their own and went down well with a fan base notorious for their irreverence for anything that isn’t Muse.

Vocalist Ian Kenny had enough strength to contend with their arena-sized proving ground, and the high points in the set came with his soaring voice confidently striding through the well-written rock numbers they are becoming known for. Though, the band as a whole doesn’t work as cohesively as they should with their heavier songs, often threatening to spoil Kenny’s effort at matching up with the command of Matt Bellamy.

Birds of Tokyo work best when they focus on more delicate pop melodies like the penultimate ‘This Fire’ and the set-closing ‘Lanterns,’ both of which were exemplified as their finest work to date.

Set List:
White Witch
When the Night Falls Quiet
The Gap
Broken Bones
Wild at Heart
This Fire

Muse and the aforementioned pyramid set the stage with the ominous ‘Isolation System,’ the graphics depicting a crowd running scared from impending danger before the rolling riff of ‘Supremacy’ cut through the bright lights with those frantic apocalyptic keys. Bellamy’s voice was as elastic as ever, shifting gears seamlessly between tenor growls and high-flying falsettos as his bandmates - Dominic Howard and Chris Wolstenholme - completed the sound.

Fan fav ‘Black Holes and Revelations’ bust out of nowhere and caught most off guard before one of the stand-outs from The 2nd Law - ‘Panic Station’ – brought the Bowie-esque twang to the table. Bellamy strutted around stage with enough swagger to match the cocksure space-funk jam, which unsurprisingly played out as the best translation from the 2012 LP.

A deep pocket of distortion exploded into the energetic ‘Hysteria,’ which further segued into an extended version of ‘Butterflies and Hurricanes.’ But of course nothing could compare to the staple ‘Knights of Cydonia’ which even had the relatively placid seated section finally rising to their feet.

After a strong start, the middle of the set started to simmer down and teeter between thoughtful piano ballads (‘Explorers’) and melodramatic dance-rock (‘Follow Me’). It was the poppy ‘Undisclosed Desires’ which began the sets weakest moments which lasted right up until the dull translation of ‘Madness,’ saved only by an awesome battle of blue and yellow lasers.

The emphatic three-hit punch of ‘Time is Running Out,’ ‘Plug in Baby ’and ‘Unnatural Selection’ hit the mosh pit hard; turning things into a playground of slamming bodies and tangled hair to drive us home quite nicely. A veer towards the left had the rock-dubstep of ‘Unsustainable’ fall flat before a well-placed ‘Uprising’ took the show to new heights. A superimposed image of an all-red Howard made for a commanding sight as the floating screens formed back into a pyramid.

The two-song encore had the joyous ‘Starlight’ prove every bit as exceptional as it always does before the wavy Queen-laced ‘Survival’ bid us goodbye, redeeming Muse, to those who felt The 2nd Law was a weak effort, with an excellent live arrangement which let Bellamy carry the song with his effortless wails.

With much of the set list dedicated to showcasing The 2nd Law, there were bound to be moments that disappointed long-time Muse fans; but despite an uncharacteristically weak middle, the tail ends of this epic set were reminders that a live Muse show is always a spectacle not to be missed.

Set List:
Isolated System
Supermassive Black Hole
Panic Station
Butterflies and Hurricanes
Man with the Harmonica/Knights of Cydonia
Monty Jam
Follow Me
Undisclosed Desires
Guiding Light
Liquid State
Time is Running Out
Plug in Baby
Unnatural Selection
The 2nd Law: Unsustainable