Muse Headline Glastonbury 2016: The NME Verdict

Thrilled by drones? Not tonight, Pilton. Forseeing some sort of flag-based puncture disaster, health and safety have put the kybosh on Muse floating their inflatable neon spheres and giant military attack drone over the Glastonbury crowd. Instead we get the visuals from their recent ‘Drones’ arena tour chopped up onto moving screen slabs designed like Tetris. The crowd bring the flares, the band bring the tectonic riffs; everyone quickly realises that Muse, stripped of stage gimmicks for their third Pyramid Stage headline set, are quite enough spectacle on their own.

A few impressive remnants of the ‘Drones’ tour remain. The band are body-mapped onto the screens so that static versions of themselves appear to be controlled by strings from an evil robot’s fingertips during ‘The Handler’. Drummer Dom Howard takes centre stage, tapping the throbtronic ‘Tubular Bells’ that is ‘The 2nd Law: Isolated System’ from drum pads while an army of android soldiers is constructed wire-by-wire on the screens behind him. Otherwise the music does the dazzling.

Dashing onstage to the strident crunch of ‘Psycho’ and spilling virtuoso solos over a frantic ‘Reapers’, Matt Bellamy is in his guitar god element, lost in such intense modern warfare paranoia that you wonder why he didn’t have Eavis turn the Pyramid Stage’s landing light off so it’s less of a target. Always festival-aware, they gather together virtually all of the fan favourites that they revolved throughout the arena tour – ‘Plug In Baby’ is tossed out early, the best song of this and most other Glastonburys, while ‘Hysteria’, ‘Map Of The Problematique’, ‘Time Is Running Out’ and ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ prompt sing-alongs they can probably hear in what will soon be declared the new city-state of Londonia. But it’s the electro-based material that Muse revel in most; Matt tapping motorbike revs out of his guitar’s luminous touchpad, bassist Chris Wolstenholme wielding a double necked synth bass for ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ and the bit of the cyborg funk ‘Dead Inside’ that sounds like the Independence Day spaceship is sucking the music clean off the stage.

Besides Matt thanking the crowd in a variety of European languages, anyone waiting for a Brexit reaction leaves disappointed. Bellamy had already predicted the rise of The United States Of Eurasia, his post-Brexit update will have to wait for the next album. Perhaps he’s a little embarrassed to have spent the last few albums warning against anonymous power conglomerates – “they will not control us” he chants on ‘Uprising’ like a Leave cheerleader and “there’s no country left” he croons during ‘The Globalist’, a vision of Britain dissolved under the yoke of a shadowy dictator. Instead this sensational set ends with the new album’s epic pop highlight ‘Mercy’, a firework and ticker-tape display to make the Olympics cower and the traditional mass mosh to ‘Knights Of Cydonia’. On a night of the sort they’ve long seen coming – when pensioners everywhere are Googling “what is ‘financial Armageddon?’” – Muse rise above the nation’s fears and squabbles and set Glastonbury back on course for celebration. They know what’s coming, and they know the only sociopolitical solution is rock. Massive rock, a bit like Queen.

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