Muse have been writing Orwellian anthems for over 20 years. They are as tight a band live as you will ever see and put on a show like few others. The Devon-hailing trio are celebrating their 30th anniversary as a band next year and tonight was the last night of their tour off the back of their ninth studio album. Will Of The People marked the group’s seventh consecutive UK number 1 album and being able to pack out London’s O2 Arena on two consecutive nights demonstrates the longevity and quality of the band from Teignmouth.
Muse @ The O2
Appearing in black hoodies and wearing silver masks, Muse looked like faceless drones, kicking off with the revolution chant of Will Of The People with the initials WOTP emblazoned on a sign in fire behind them.
Bassist Chris Wolstenholme walks down the catwalk of their T-shaped stage surrounded by mesmerised fans as the instantly recognisable bass intro to Hysteria comes in. The first of many moments throughout the night to give goosebumps. Last month marked twenty years since their 3x Platinum third studio record Absolution was released, and whilst not their breakout record, it certainly catapulted them into the top tier of rock acts at the time with a heavier, progressive and more textured sound. The first single from that album, Stockholm Syndrome follows shortly after which ends by going into the riff of Township Rebellion, a song from Rage Against The Machine’s 1992 debut album.
After Syndrome, frontman Matt Bellamy smashes his guitar into the stage and throws it into the amps behind him, before gifting the defunct instrument to a fan in the front row. She has a banner saying she has seen the band over 220 times. They are certainly not a band you would get bored of seeing!
Muse @ The O2
The trio’s hunger to put on an immersive sensory overload of a show is one that is unmatched. The show had lasers, confetti, streamers and fire – all within the first 30 minutes! A drill sergeant appears on screen to introduce Psycho from the 2015 GRAMMY® award-winning album Drones, shouting commands with the crowd instructed to shout back “Aye Sir!”.
The stage would regularly go dark with videos displaying on the dual screens flanking the stage, the fictional hellish future and story of an uprising against authority – but this was also a distraction tactic because when the lights came back up for the eighties synth pop influenced Compliance, a gigantic hooded figure towered on the stage. The second single from the Will Of The People record is a pop song built for stages like this. It fits their dystopian imagery which in this instance, takes the view of a villainous establishment, urging blind faith and discouraging critical thinking. This is followed by Thought Contagion from 2018’s 80’s-inspired Simulation Theory LP, which continues in that totalitarian vein.
With confetti still falling from the sky from the previous song, the groovy synth bassline of 2003 hit Time Is Running Out which, word for word, is cried out by thousands of adoring fans in a tremendous crescendo. Drummer Dominic Howard, who is a driving force all night, comes to the front of the stage with his faceless silver mask to play the hypnotic beat for The 2nd Law: Isolated System, sending the masses into a trance-like state.
In an ode to his classical influences, Bellamy sits at a grand piano and effortlessly plays Bach’s Toccata And Fugue In D Minor as a creepy intro into the camp new record tune You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween. The electronic organ-led song is an ode to classic horror films and is received well as the huge hooded figure on stage is now projected with horror characters like Scream and Jigsaw, starts to move from side to side and a massive hand to it’s right containing lights shining into the crowd moves up and down.
With one of the least subtle song titles in music recording history, We Are Fucking Fucked is the doom anthem you never knew you needed. Tongue-in-cheek in it’s frankness, but the nightmarish worlds that they create are reflective of real world issues. If we are actually at death’s door and life is a losing game as they say, then you might as well embrace every moment and at a Muse concert, every moment is celebrated to the max.
An instrumental “Alternate Reality” version of 2018’s The Dark Side is a rare moment to take a breath. They’re so focused that the 45-year-old singer doesn’t even speak to the crowd until 40 minutes into the set, moving seamlessly from song to song. The electric Plug In Baby and glam rock protest song, Uprising, see a halt to the pyrotechnics as these hits don’t need much added to enhance their sucker punch impact. Supermassive Black Hole and Starlight from the 2006’s Black Holes And Revelations are met with fantastic energy from the sell-out crowd, the latter of which see’s the frontman with his arms aloft as 20,000 belt out the chorus.
After a brief hiatus from the stage the band return, diving straight into Will of The People’s Kill Or Be Killed. It takes a moment to register but the stage itself is now in its third incarnation, this time with a 30 foot armour clad, red-eyed bull figure with arms reaching out each side of the stage. To finish what has been a blistering hour and 50 minutes is the tease of Ennio Morricone’s Man With A Harmonica (Wolstenholme stepping forward to be that man) which introduces Knights Of Cydonia, the progressive powerhouse of a song, built for the biggest of stages and loudest of audiences. After 20+ songs of raucous energy from both band and crowd, in unison all in attendance sing “No one’s going to take me alive, the time has come to make things right” before flames fill the stage in all directions. It’s a truly magnificent spectacle that tops off a tremendous evening.
Muse have nothing to prove. Entering their fourth decade as a band has not seen them slow down one bit. Another chart topping album and a tour consisting of 55 shows across 16 countries over an 18 month period is testament to their passion for music. Always evolving as writers, musicians and stage performers, they are arguably performing better than they ever have done.
Review of Muse at London’s O2 Arena on 2nd October 2023 by Chris Lambert. Photography by Kalpesh Patel.