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The 2nd Law Tour reviews


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Despite this week being voted "the best band in the world today" by the readers of Q magazine, the pre-gig mood was strangely muted for this first of two sold-out shows at the O2 – more befitting of shareholders convening for a multinational conglomerate’s AGM.


Even after 15 million album sales and several headline gigs at Wembley stadium, the early-thirtysomething threesome still haven't fully captured the public imagination: they remain forever little Muse from Teignmouth, the superleague pretenders.


Their love of synapse-frazzling rock spectacle has sometimes been their undoing: at the O2 in ’09, the three members were marooned from each other on podia ten feet off the ground. They didn't look happy. The podia wobbled unnervingly; behind the scenes, frontman Matt Bellamy was splitting up with a longterm girlfriend, and bassist Chris Wolstenholme was battling alcoholism.


Three years on, Bellamy has happily fathered a son by movie actress Kate Hudson, and 'The 2nd Law', their sixth album, recently debuted at number two in America. The trio opened the show in a unified huddle around Dominic Howard's drumkit, and spirited up the “Unsustainable” portion of “The 2nd Law”’s title track, a blipvert warning about climate change.


The stage was, again, a feast for the eyes, with a vast, inverted pyramid screen above Howard’s head, and Bellamy and Wolstenholme patrolling a semi-circular rampart around the back, while rapid-fire images fizzed away on screens beneath their feet. During the Eighties funk of “Panic Station”, these included a dancing purple monster in a pair of green briefs. Muse tackled the big issues of the day such as global warming and the economic downturn, with a directness which frankly humbles other bands of their stature, but without taking themselves too seriously.


And, by Jove, they brought the rock, with equal nods to U2, Queen and Prince – a winning combination, which transformed the crowd, who pogo-ed in breathless unison. Boldly, this unique band walked the line between absurdity and ecstasy which is central to arena gigs: Bellamy led joyous fist-punching exercises to ”Uprising”’s Doctor Who theme groove, and for “Survival” – their operatic Olympian epic – Bellamy doled out his humungous climactic riff while curtained by triumphant jets of smoke.


After three years of recession, it was all reassuringly expensive. Yet, at 50-60 quid a ticket, in a week when many had coughed up 400-odd to see the Rolling Stones at the same venue, Muse were unbeatable value.

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In the literal sense, as well as the hyperbolic, Muse are exceptional. Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard are the one band who treble-handedly justify the existence of the gaping, Luxembourg-sized thunderdomes in which, regrettably, rock now happens. They're the one band of whom no one but a madman would ever say they wished they could see them playing the intimate indie dives they toured a dozen years ago.


And they're back to tour The 2nd Law, an album whose unembarrassed pomp at times, makes Queen sound like Frank Sidebottom. It's a work that bends the listener to its will, and the new material can easily stand next to, say, the galloping Flashing Blade heroism of "Knights of Cydonia" and the quiet-to-loud, timid-to-terrifying set piece "Time Is Running Out".


In the past, the gold medal for my favourite Muse song has been a photo finish between two: "Supermassive Black Hole", essentially Prince reinventing "Kiss" on Judas Priest's rig; and "Plug-In Baby", on which a Hendrixed run at Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D-minor slams, head-first, into a turbocharged take-off of Air's "Sexy Boy", which in turn collides with a lung-bursting, vengeful chorus. This year, that pair have a challenger. "Survival", the official song of the London Olympics – ELO's "Mr Blue Sky" rewritten by Nietzsche, basically – may still be Muse's finest hour. Tonight, showing a rare glimpse of overt humour, Bellamy dedicates it to Bear Grylls.


It's a show that involves a hi-tech invertible Mayan temple (well, it is 2012) and more lasers than a George Lucas battle scene. Bellamy's stellar presence is rivalled by his bandmates, with bassist Wolstenholme venturing out on to the promontory for his lead vocal on "Save Me" and drummer Howard sporting a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers body suit.


Watching Muse expand and escalate from lunacy to lunacy is a never-ending joy. The day Muse shrivel, get small and do an acoustic tour will surely be the day the rock world itself shrinks to a white dwarf.

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4 out of 5 stars


Muse anglicise a different aspect of America from the blues and R&B that inspired previous generations of Britrockers. The Devon trio are an English offshoot of the conspiratorial, paranoid strain of mind that brought us The X Files, Ayn Rand, Jack London, 9/11 deniers, etc. They do not go near the really hateful stuff – it is not as if they have turned The Protocols of the Elders of Zion into rock opera – but they do unleash some powerful libertarian hoodoo. Crackpot US rightwinger Glenn Beck praises their songs for posing “the fundamental question facing the world today – can man rule himself?”


They opened the first of two O2 Arena shows with the title track of their new album The 2nd Law. It refers to the thermodynamic law that all systems move inexorably towards chaos and breakdown – a cheery proposition that the threesome proceeded to illustrate with nerve-shredding sci-fi synthesisers, a massive distorted dubstep bassline and a robotic voice lecturing us about the unsustainability of techno-capitalism. A ticker tape of stock prices scrolled across their high-tech stage.


“You don’t have long, I am on to you,” singer-guitarist Matt Bellamy wailed in an unhinged falsetto in the next song “Supremacy” as bombastic orchestrations and a menacing riff evoked an apocalyptic James Bond theme tune. The secret of Muse’s success is to turn paranoia into blockbusting stadium entertainment, yoking shadowy themes of alien abduction and government mind control to flamboyant Queen-style pomp-rock.


Their stage was in the round, so Bellamy could promenade about performing a 360-degree surveillance of his audience. An inverted pyramid composed of LCD screens hung above the threesome like a masonic symbol. Yet for all the spectacle, the trio appeared subdued, as though mulling over Beck’s unwelcome endorsement: Bellamy recently complained that in the US the right has hijacked “conspiracy theory subculture” for wild anti-Obama fantasies.


But by degrees the outrageous logic of their world view asserted itself. Bellamy, wearing black shades, channelled Freddie Mercury, George Michael and Men in Black in “Madness”. Drummer Dominic Howard and bassist Christopher Wolstenholme turned the Dr Who theme tune into a monstrous glam rock stomp on “Uprising”.


The pyramid descended ominously, engulfing the band. They emerged for the encore with Bellamy on his knees, performing guitar-shredding solos and howling operatically about survivalism while geysers of dry ice erupted around him. The end of an entertaining show was nigh.

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Review: Muse go full-throttle at LG Arena, Birmingham


Never a group to do things by halves, Muse left Britain’s second city gasping for air after a full-throttle, anthem-packed show.




Thousands of adoring fans young and old filled Birmingham’s LG Arena, screaming, stamping and hanging on frontman Matt Bellamy’s every word.


The show was nothing short of spectacular, as a stunning light show and extraordinarily elaborate stage set-up moved, flashed and changed to every riff and soaring chord blasted by the band.


From the instrumental opening piece to the explosive finale, Muse treated the crowds to hits from all six studio albums.


Showbiz favourite Sunburn, modern classic Stockholm Syndrome, and recent single Madness – during which Bellamy sported sunglasses bearing LED lyrics – were all greeted with heady screams, while the frantic dancing and jumping spread all the way back to the rafters for radio staple Plug in Baby and the brilliant Time is Running Out.


Even during slower numbers, including Explorers – played on an electric grand piano – the audience were held in rapture as Bellamy crooned and howled his way through the band’s powerful back catalogue.


Marking the first of two encores, an inverted pyramid of TV screens gradually lowered to cover the band.


Then, tinkling piano music accompanying footage of young children running across a desert built into a crescendo, gradually turning into Uprising and then on to Knights of Cydonia, with 2006 single Starlight kicking off the second encore.


The night ended in an explosion of smoke rockets as Bellamy and co bid farewell with the official Olympics song, Survival, to the delight of the crowd.


It’s easy to see why they have been named Best Live Band at numerous music awards ceremonies, year-on-year – they are one of the few acts around today to deliver consistently spectacular performances. Radio can barely do them justice.


By Mark Mudie

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