If there’s one word that does not fall into the vocabulary for the band Muse, it would be ‘subtle’. This band was always destined for enormous stadium extravaganzas and now “The 2nd Law” tour has exploded onto stages to prove that this trio from Teignmouth are ready to take on the mantle of ‘bigger and better’.
One of the most controversial moves for the band was incorporating dub-step into the track ‘Unsustainable’. It can be very hit and miss but when the silhouettes walked out onstage and ripped into the opening song they proved that not only could they do it, but do it well. There was something primal and urgent with the strings and chorus and the synthetic vocals then collapsing under the weight of the stomping dub-step beat.
They kept the pace for the next two tracks ‘Supremacy’ and ‘Map of the Problematique’ and then came the centrepiece of the show’s production – the pyramid. Muse has over the years expanded on their performances with ever larger and more excessive stage settings. This time an inverted pyramid with screens across its surface descended from the ceiling like something out of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and as we all gawped at the glowing monstrosity Chris Wolstenholme’s thumping bass launched us into ‘Panic Station’. This song is officially my jam, it’s so left-field for Muse with its ballsy funk-rock and Matt Bellamy’s over-exaggerated enunciated lyrics. Though I’m not entirely sure why the London audience seemed so restrained, I’m hoping it’s just that it’s a new track and that they’re still warming to it.
Muse are also well known for changing their sets up, not just from tour to tour but even from night to night. Vintage tracks ‘New Born’ and ‘Falling Down’ where Bellamy regaled us with his exquisite pianist skills featured in our setlist tonight. However the night before (ie: first London O2 Arena show) ‘Sunburn’ was performed in place of ‘Falling Down’ and ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ in ‘New Born’. This makes attending multiple shows worthwhile for hardcore fans. However this can also be frustrating if you happen to miss a song that hasn’t gotten an airing in a long while.
Both new and old tracks get an equal share of the playtime though, Wolstenholme gets to show off his refined vocals on ‘Liquid State’ and allows Bellamy a chance to strut around free from singing duties across the entire stage which he commented was a nice change. During ’Animals’, another foray into the anti-establishment motives often littering the band’s song-writing; I was more distracted by the intriguing mini-film of a businessman on verge of mental collapse featuring on the pyramid’s screens.This is an example of how the band now incorporates a lot of visual stimulation. While Dominic Howard’s rhythmic drumming assisted by an entire O2 arena clap-a-long in ‘Time Is Running Out’ was a crowd favourite. ‘Follow Me’ was a clear stand-out for the night and epitomises the ultimate live track, combining soaring vocals that build and explode in an epic crescendo with an eye popping visual array of strategically timed lasers and video projections on our monstrous pyramid.
In an ever increasingly agitated political environment both locally in the UK and globally and ‘Uprising’ and show closer ‘Knights of Cydonia’ make appearances in the two separate encores.. To be honest, I don’t think ‘Knights of Cydonia’ will ever be usurped as a closing song with its protesting “You and I must fight for our rights, you and I must fight to survive” chanting chorus and epic guitar riffage breakdown. Throw your fists into the air and scream, because Muse are out to blow your mind, ears and eyes apart.