Muse announced a huge arena tour last week – then celebrated by playing one of their most intimate shows in more than a decade. The trio let word slip of their last-minute surprise show at Electric Ballroom in London with just hours to spare, sparking a rush down to the Camden venue for first-come, first-served tickets. We were there, not only to report on the hysteria that ensued when the band finally took to the stage, but to get a glimpse into how preparations were going for next year's tour, from the clever creatives responsible for designing it.
We knew the band would be bringing drones with them for the shows, but it turns out that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Muse have up their sleeves for 2016. Catching up with production designer Oli Metcalfe and tour director Glen Rowe backstage, as Matt Bellamy and co loaded into the Electric Ballroom, we got a glimpse into a hugely ambitious-sounding touring spectacle that's aiming to update Pink Floyd's famously super-sized 'The Wall' production.
The stage "looks like a double headed arrow essentially," Metcalfe explains. "It spans the length of the arena. It's quite narrow but more importantly for the audience its low, so the band will be playing in an intimate space, and have a good relationship in terms of distance from their audience. So it allows a stronger connection I feel for the group."
"We started thinking about boxing rings," adds Rowe. "When a boxing match is staged in an arena you think it's tiny – a little postage stamp in the middle of this huge arena arena. So we thought, let’s make a tiny stage in the middle of the arena so it’s a small circle with two runs ways with what you call a hammerhead at each end, where things can pop up and we can make technology work. The whole circle moves one revolution per hour. The idea is Matt starts there and an hour later he comes back, so in the show everyone sees him [up close] twice."
As for the drones, the subject of a lot of speculation among Muse fans as to how they will be integrated into the show: "The world is going through a very difficult phase of appraising unmanned aerial vehicles and at the moment there is a lot of scepticism of how they can be used in order to be safe," says Metcalfe. "So we’ve been able to work with a company in the Netherlands that have written a piece of software that can control a whole swarm of drones so we’re programming them in a different way. They’re not manned, they’re not manned vehicles as in somebody with a controller. They’re controlled by a computer system and tracking system."
Priority Tickets for Muse’s tour are available now. Search 'O2 Priority'.