A balls-out bombastic blockbuster of musical theatre, like 'The Greatest Showman' reimagined by James Cameron
“Wow, this is way better than Wembley,” Muse frontman Matt Bellamy tells the howling masses at London Stadium in the midst of their latest prog-rock circus. Except it isn’t. London Stadium is the tenth circle of hell. Getting inside and around is exhausting. The experience of your attempt to navigate this enormo-dome or find someone who knows how to will age you by decades. But that doesn’t matter. When Muse plug in, you leave this world and enter theirs.
Bringing the themes of 2018’s ’80s pastiche ‘Simulation Theory‘ to life, their new live production plays out a dystopian future where “algorithms evolve” until we’re enslaved by artificial intelligence. Bellamy enters by being elevated into the centre of a gangway in the crowd, flanked by neon stormtroopers who soon become a choreographed brass band to back recent single ‘Pressure’. Like something from a Ridley Scott nightmare, the computerised face of a snarling robot alien (known affectionately among Musers as ‘Murph’) is beamed across the big screen before screaming “YOUR ASS BELONGS TO ME NOW” to open a feral outing of the trashy rock anthem ‘Psycho’. Throughout the set, Muse’s dark army of dancers stalk the stage, fire smoke cannons and zipwire up the walls for some reason as they battle an emerging robot menace. It’s nuts.
Always testing the barriers of good-taste, this is next-level insanity from a band who even themselves admit that they’ve “finally gone too far“. It feels more like musical theatre on a blockbuster scale than a standard stadium gig. The Greatest Showman reimagined by James Cameron. But don’t let the spectacle distract too much from the performance, as Muse still play with as much intensity as ever. ‘Break It To Me’ rattles with its KoRn-esque metallic edge, ‘Uprising’ rallies the stadium as a five-minute revolution, ‘Propaganda’ just slaps you in the face with its daftness, and ‘Plug In Baby’ lands as if its always been interwoven into the DNA of rock music.
There’s a cinematic interlude as the band air the lofty Bellamy solo cut ‘Pray (High Valyrian)’ from the recent Game Of Thrones album, before the filthy funk-metal of ‘Supermassive Blackhole’ takes you to an intergalactic disco. You’d forget how many classics and bangers Muse have given us, but the greatest hits outing of ‘Bliss’, ‘Hysteria’, ‘Madness’, ‘Time Is Running Out’ and ‘Starlight’ showcase their pomp-rock prowess that’s ascended them as heirs to Queen‘s throne. The set only suffers from there sadly not enough time to delve into rarities or more moments from their 2001 masterpiece ‘Origin Of Symmetry’, but there’s a nod to it with ‘New Born’ and ‘Microcuts’ being chopped into some compound riff-heavy medleys.
Then came the encore – oh my. The blockbuster concludes as the band tear into the beastly opening of ‘Absolution’ gem ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, there’s a puff of smoke before the giant robo-skeletal frame of Murph emerges from the back of the stage; jaws chomping as he claws at the crowd. What is happening? We don’t even know what’s real any more. The singularity is complete. Who else could do that but Muse? As London Stadium howls along to the fist-pumping closer of ‘Knights Of Cydonia’, everyone’s all a little lost in this otherworldly circus of the balls-out bombastic and the shamelessly epic. Now, back to reality…
Muse’s setlist was:
Algorithm (Alternate Reality Version)
Break It to Me
Plug In Baby
Pray (High Valyrian)
The Dark Side
Supermassive Black Hole
The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
Time Is Running Out
Futurism/Unnatural Selection/Micro Cuts
Take a Bow
Stockholm Syndrome/Assassin/Reapers/The Handler/New Born
Knights of Cydonia
Muse’s remaining UK tour dates are below:
5 – Bristol, UK Ashton Gate Stadium
8 – Manchester, UK Etihad Stadium