This past Saturday, Muse gave a sneak peek of their dazzling new ‘Drones’ show to the venerable oddball convention of Download 2015. In keeping with the supposedly back-to-basics record, the “scaled back” show (Chris Wolstenhome’s words) featured stagefront flamethrowers, glam-metal theatrics, a climactic firework display and crossfire spotlights operated by techs in pods suspended from the rig. Not flashy at all, then. In anticipation of the full ‘Drones’ tour, here are five things we learned from the Donington Park pandemonium.
The drones are coming
Surprising no one, Matt Bellamy recently announced plans to fly actual drones over the audience during ‘Drones’ live shows. Latest word is, they’re coming, just not quite yet. In a backstage interview televised before the set, Matt revealed that, although drone tour-fare was still in the pipeline, the festival setup didn’t accommodate airborne killing-machine replicas. (They’re replicas, right Matt?)
This is a darker, heavier Muse than we’ve seen before
And not just because it was Download. To match the hurtling classic rock riffs found across ‘Drones’, Bellamy and co – dressed head-to-toe in black (literally, in raven-haired drummer Dom Howard’s case) – ramped up the blistering, bottom-heavy onslaught throughout the set. Peak carnage came with the nightmare-thrash three-way of ‘Micro Cuts’, ‘Dead Star’ and ‘Agitated’. Speaking of which…
Pre-‘Absolution’ fans are in for a treat at upcoming shows
As well as live staples ‘Plug In Baby’ and ‘New Born’, Muse busted out second-album odysseys ‘Micro Cuts’ and the inimitable ‘Citizen Erased’, scarcely witnessed since the band’s ‘Origin of Symmetry’ Reading and Leeds sets in 2011. There were also airings of ‘Agitated’ and 2002 non-album single ‘Dead Star’, the spiritual precursor to ‘Drones’, which makes perfect said alongside tracks like ‘The Handler’ and ‘Reaper’. Still no ‘Showbiz’ tunes, mind, but even the fan-forum zealots weren’t quibbling over that omission.
Their conspiracy theories are rubbing off on fans. Sort of…
It’s no secret that ‘Drones’ homes in on a global elite conducting sinister operations behind closed doors; opening the main set and encore respectively, album skits ‘[Drill Sergeant]’ and ‘[JFK]’ hammer home the point. But are Matt’s motormouth outbursts anything more than adorable eccentricities? A quick fan canvas returns mixed results: some follow the frontman down shadowy rabbit holes with a distant kind of curiosity; others admit mining deep into Matt’s fave conspiracy theory doc Zeitgeist. “I was reading about the Lizard Queen things, or something,” a 17-year-old fan named Paige said nervously. “It’s, er, a bit far-fetched… but it’s awesome.”
Matt’s got more in Dave Grohl than we thought
After a full day’s rain, the main stage was soaked. Rather than dial down the guitar-hero theatrics, however, Matt pounced and slashed into opener ‘Psycho’ with trademark pizzaz, only to tumble flamboyantly to the ground mid-riff. “And that’s how you make an arse of yourself!” he joked as the song finished. Look closely around the three-second mark to see it.