fri 19/07/2024

Muse, O2 Arena | reviews, news & interviews

Muse, O2 Arena

Muse, O2 Arena

The 21st-century stadium rockers are not cool at all - but they're mindboggingly good at what they do

Muse with a pyramid

Muse are not cool. For a minute on leaving the tube station I did think they'd broadened their appeal quite dramatically before realising that a fair section of the people around me were heading to Giants of Lovers Rock show also at the O2 complex last night.

But no, their audience, judging by those heading for the main arena, are a fairly even split between hyper-mainstream V Festival demographic and slightly misshapen indie/goth kids, not really much more rock'n'roll in demeanour than, say, a Coldplay crowd, but very dedicated.

This isn't meant pejoratively, not at all. It's just that compared to their more dour musical cousins Radiohead, or hipper, younger bands, Muse are never taken seriously, never given that cachet of being more than just a rock band. And it has to be said that this is quite understandable when you see them in action. From the moment they took the stage, red lights strobing through the crowd, screens flickering with dystopian imagery, totalitarian prog-rock chords blaring, they were deeply silly.

Muse, with a pyramid“Welcome to the technological paradise,” said a wilfully synthetic female voiceover as part of the intro; this was clearly intended satirically, but the irony was clanging, because from the stupendously big dubstep-rock riffs that immediately followed onwards, Muse served as a brilliant advert for the late capitalist technological overload that their whole output has been dedicated to raising alarms about. Indeed, had a 1980s science fiction visionary had the will and resources to create a 21st-century band, Muse would have been the result – the ideal house band for a Blade Runner show.

There was even something android-like about the band's leader Matt Bellamy as they plunged in to new album opener “Supremacy”. Looking down from the Arena's seats, it became clear how perfectly sculpted he is to be at the heart of a light show. The curiously gelled hair which he has always rocked exactly set off his angular face and patterened suit, and made him an automatic focus among the dancing spotlights. His wailing voice, too, which was often barely distinguishable from his guitar tone, had something of the cyborg about it. His robo-rockstar act was all the odder given the ordinariness of his bandmates, Chris Wolstenholme in plain white T-shirt and Dom Howard looking not unlike Super Hans from Peep Show.

Matt Bellamy, with a pyramidThen, after a deftly delivered coda of Led Zeppelin showboating, the mothership came down. A huge scaffold of screens in various pyramid and inverted pyramid form hovered over the stage, and the barrage of images started. Again, it was a 1980s vision of the future, rendered futuristically: incredible detail, mindblowing complexity, but somehow Max Headroom-ish. But then, everything about Muse borrows from the past shamelessly but brilliantly: glaring chunks of both “Don't Stop Me Now” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” in “Explorers”, bits of Chili Peppers funk-rock in “Supermassive Black Hole” and “Panic Station”, the complete works of Vince Clarke in “Undisclosed Desires”, all twisted into something unmistakeably Muse.

Through all this, the visuals flashing across the screens told us in no uncertain terms: bankers are bad, yeah. The world is in crisis, yeah? Encroaching chaos, yeah? Technology is a threat, yeah? There's a lot of surveillance, yeah? But it made it all look fun, just as Bellamy's lyrical vision has always made paranoia, existential vertigo and societal meltdown sound exciting. Muse are the ultimate Hollywood blockbuster band, the Society of the Spectacle made flesh, so when 50,000 people bellowed along with “Knights of Cydonia” “we will fight for our rights”, it was questionable whether they really cared about the erosion of their own rights to living wages and universal healthcare any more than sympathising with the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars makes someone into an anti-establishment firebrand, but my God it looked and sounded impressive. So no, not cool, not cool at all, but as an exemplary expression of everything they rail against, Muse are mindbogglingly good.

Everything about Muse borrows from the past shamelessly but brilliantly

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Comments

I'm sorry but you have no idea what you're talking about “Welcome to the technological paradise” err? no! It's a news reporter and what she actually says "All natural and technological processes proceed in such a way that the availability of the remaining energy decreases" She's talking about The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics which is what the Tour and album The 2nd Law is based around. And for the record i saw ALL kinds of age groups there.

All kinds of middle-class white age groups were present.

Thanks for the correction Alex - but I am well aware of the theme of The 2nd Law, hence the mention of "encroaching chaos" in the final paragraph. I see that theme as an extension of Bellamy's fascination with catastrophe, societal collapse and so on, which has been present throughout the band's career. My mis-hearing of that voiceover doesn't alter that point.

I didn't say anything about age groups except a passing mention of "indie kids" which is a generic term.  You're right, there was a broad cross-section of ages though, including parents and teenagers both obviously there to see the band - though it was very much dominated by 20- and early 30-somethings.

Not sure which segment of the heinously fragmented and utterly repulsive O2 you were in, but pretty sure the entirety of that dome couldn't safely house 50,000, what with all the franchised coffee outlets, exorbitant grease huts, and whatnot... 50,000 may have 'bellowed' along way back when they last played your evidently beloved V Festival, but they certainly didn't this weekend... Straighten them facts!!! Also, 'cool'..? What is this allusive 'cool' of which you speak, and where can I go get some..?

OK, 20,000.  But that is nitpicking, it was still a lot of people bellowing (admittedly tunefully), so again my point still stands. Not sure where you get that I love V Festival from, though. And I think you mean ELUSIVE. n.b. at no point do I suggest that being either "cool" or "uncool" is a particularly desirable thing: just that it's a defining factor of Muse that they exist outside the cycles of hipness and fashionability - they are big, brash mainstream entertainment, showbiz to the bone, and more power to them for that.

Muse is mindblowing awful. Fake, fake, fake, wannabe rockers.

Thanks for taking the time and effort to share that. 

I don't believe you saw the same show as me! This was the 3rd time I have seen Muse in 2 years. I have only ever seen them in gigantic crowds...Wembley, Leeds Festival and now the O2. Now, how many people does it take to see them, before they become "cool"? Obviously the huge amounts of people who do go to see them are testament to the fact that they think Muse are cool! Look, I am 48 years old. I think they are awesome, geniuses. And I didn't go with my teenage children,just my 50+year old husband who thinks the same way as me about them. There is a huge range of agegroups that they appeal to from teens to even older than us! And why do people always mention Radiohead in the same breath as Muse? They are nothing like them! I don't think they are silly...I think they just enjoy themselves, and that definitely comes across. I am so looking forward to seeing them again when they do a stadium tour,hopefully next Summer.

Thought that this was a poorly written review that seemed to want to be more critical of the band, what they represent, and who they attract than focusing on the gig itself. You don't pay money to judge who you're standing next to, or to question why bands do what they do, or at least I certainly don't. You pay for the music, and the experience, surely that's what should be focussed on.

I'm 56 been going to rock concerts since I was 15, and I think Bellamy is a highly talented fantastic guitarist and Muse as a band are awesome! Thoroughly enjoyed O2 concert can't wait to see them again!

Ah Muse: the reviewer's bete noire. No matter how positive you are about Muse (and every review has praise inbedded, even if it's only admiration for scale), it's never enough for the Musians: they scour the internet looking for any review around, to pour scorn on the perceived scorn. "Did you even listen to the album / attend the gig / look at that picture of Matt Bellamy?" they scoff, assuming as they do that their bile for the review offsets the snark they observed therein, whether it's actually there or not. And in their comments, they tend to prove a lot of the points made in the review. I was there too: I buy all the points Joe is selling. I do wonder if Bellamy is aware of the inherent contradictions in his schtick (technology is BAD, now listen to THIS; don't let the MAN tell you what to do, now follow ME and FIGHT), or if he's simply some sort of idiot savant who sits in his villa on Lake Como over a bank of computers dessicating Queen tracks to turn into new strands of gold. It's a glorious, literally awesome nonsense that he creates, though. And better him than Chris Martin, obviously. It's the aural equivalent of the Dolomites: huge, angular, overwhelming. I sometimes wonder if he takes a day trip down the road to look at them, and then thinks 'I can top that' before heading home to do just that.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters