The Coventry trio's fourth album is sometimes ham-fisted, but always heartfelt
Muse: Entertainment Centre, Sydney, Saturday, November 17
The Wembley heroes bring their triumphant 12 months to a close on the other side of the planet. Next year, the moon…
We all witnessed it: there was the fire, the trapeze artists, the huge TV screens and the giant satellite dishes that flanked the stage; there was Matt Bellamy’s red lab coat, the smoke from the pitch and the mere fact that they’d even thought about flying in on jetpacks. There was the way that, a mere 30 seconds into ‘Knights Of Cydonia’, every last one of the 150,000 people present over those two nights in June realised they were witnessing modern stadium rock at its gloriously excessive pinnacle. There is the way our ears are still ringing. Everything about Muse at Wembley seemed so… final. Like, where on Earth can they go after this?
The answer – at least until that gig on the moon – is to its other side. Or Down Under, as we call it on Earth. The Greatest Live Band In The World Ever’s journey since July has taken in Japan, Korea, the US and Russia, and now they’re ending the year in Oz.
Muse were here back in January and second on the bill to US prog-metal bores Tool at The Big Day Out, while just two years ago they were playing clubs. Their last headline show in Sydney was in a venue just under half the size of this 13,000 capacity arena. ‘Starlight’ may have introduced Muse to a mainstream radio audience over here, but it’s mainly word of mouth (or rather messageboard) about their live reputation that has ensured all the tickets for this gig were snapped up in seconds. Thanks to this buzz, make no mistake, Muse already have a massive, obsessive following in Oz.
You can tell this by the screams that greet the mere unveiling of Dom Howard’s drumkit. This may be the majority of the audience’s first ever Muse gig, but you sense that most are already convinced it’s going to be the greatest night of their lives – even before Matt Bellamy strides on in a disappointingly sober black T-shirt and jeans combo. By the time he’s blowing them a kiss as the opening ‘Take A Bow’ reaches its crescendo and fireworks are exploding on the screens behind him, it’s… well, as everyone back home knows, by this point, it’s already all over.
‘Map Of The Problematique’ follows, still sounding marvellously like Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds Of Love’ at a space rave; ‘New Born’ sees Matt sprint across the stage, sliding on his knees as he carves another solo from his flashing light guitar. If there is anyone in the SEC left unconvinced of Muse’s reputation – there isn’t, but for the sake of argument – the robo-Prince grooves of ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ leave no room for doubt.
The traditional cover of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ may feel unnecessary given the number of songs left out this evening, but proof of Muse’s willingness to take risks comes with the unveiling of ‘Sing For Absolution’ B-side ‘Fury’ (at soundcheck the day before, NME even overheard them trying out ‘Space Dementia’, though it’s sadly absent tonight). Matt, Chris and Dom are clearly enjoying themselves, too: there are endless bouts of impromptu riffing, with teaser intros to ‘Microphone Fiend’ and ‘Map Of Your Head’ (the latter segueing into a stratospheric ‘Starlight’). Significantly, the trio greet the botched start to ‘Hysteria’ with goofy smiles, a reminder that Muse are a million miles away from the super-slick dinosaurs for whom spaces such as this are traditionally home. ‘Time Is Running Out’ and then an extended blast through ‘Bliss’ bring the main set to a close, Matt windmilling and popping the massive balloons thrown from the crowd with the neck of his guitar.
The first encore brings the stupendous pairing of ‘Plug In Baby’ and ‘Stockholm Syndrome’; the second a supernova version of ‘Knights Of Cydonia’. Opening with their most over-the-top song felt like an act of glorious arrogance at their big shows in England this summer, but it works even better as a finale. As Matt precedes the climatic rock out – a riff there still isn’t a speaker system in the galaxy
big enough to do justice to – with a scream of, “COME OOOOOOONNNN!”, all in front of him do just that. And then some. Australia has stadiums the size of Wembley as well, and The Greatest Live Band On Earth shouldn’t hesitate in booking them now for their next visit.
The Muse Global Juggernaut rolls on and, now they’ve nearly completed the task of leaving the last few doubters on Earth open-mouthed, they’re going to have to start thinking seriously about that gig on the moon.
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