Muse: daft and dangerously on form, Kevin Core is stunned by the death rays.
Muse are having a laugh.
Reading the reviews of recent album The Resistance you’d be forgiven for thinking that frontman Matt Bellamy walked around with tin foil on his head in case his brainwaves were being harvested by an intergalactic intelligence agency.
Sticking some of their recent reviews into an online word cloud generator, the themes oppressed, 1984 and conspiracy are particular hack favourites.
They cite the Muse frontman’s own references to the ‘corporate-ocracy’, but on the basis of their Liverpool Echo Arena show, a word that might equally apply is ‘daft’.
I refuse to believe a man in shoes this sparkly is lying awake at night worrying about proposed changes to management structure of Royal Bank of Scotland.
Smiling on his 20-foot podium, bashing away at a grand piano, its mirrored lid reflecting a series of lights which corresponded to the pitch of the notes he played, he’s definitely more Freddie Mercury than Noam Chomsky.
His snippet of Ravel‘s Bolero heralded the arrival of United States of Eurasia – an acknowledgement he knows where he’s stealing from.
There was a ludicrous immensity here, a nod and a wink that if you’re going to fashion a show this big you have to have a sense of the ridiculous.
Rather than the paranoid creep through the subconscious the press would have you believe, Muse were big, bold and fun.
The rest of the band’s podiums sparked into life during the song as a Wargames style computer readout showed the eponymous fictional country’s status as undecided, in the font favoured by the BBC 2 team who did the computer graphics for Red Dwarf.
I half expected to see Norman Lovett‘s Holly appear announcing a problem in the cargo bay.
Visually it was a show you could enjoy from the back seats of the arena which started with a Fritz Lang-style projection of drones in a dystopia drudging up the endless industrial stairway, before they fell like dominoes to the bass rumble of The Uprising.
As with Muse’s music the attention to detail that impresses, a particularly nice touch being the personal laser beam at Matt’s feet. Thanks to that old standby of the rock frontman, the hand-held, personal, mirrored prism, he was able to refract the light around the stadium like an 80s sci-fi villain.
Even their mike stands look like death rays warding off enemies on the front of the mother ship and there’s an air of the demagogue about Bellamy as he orchestrates the chanting of the crowd.
At points it was like a fascist rally, without the actual fascism and the attendant unpleasantness, boiler suits and queuing.
Album highlight Unnatural Selection showcased the dense riffery that marks them out, the sheer scalpel-sharp, sledgehammer-heavy pummelling that drew a massive response from the liveliest crowd I’ve seen at the arena.
The tune owes more than a little to the Bomb the Bass‘ Bug Powder Dust and it’s a testament to their recycling that influences like this sit easily next to the Queen stylings of Eurasia – not to mention the Led Zep-esque jam in the middle of the song.
Oddly enough the only lull was in the underwhelming new single Undisclosed Desires, during which there was a minor rush for the bar.
Normal service was quickly resumed by Dom Howard and Chris Wollstoneholme on drums and bass. During an interlude, as an industrial nightmare of a bass-led instrumental built up, the ascending drum riser began to revolve.
The grandeur of a Spinal Tap moment such as this could be unutterably naff if the music hadn’t entirely warranted it. If the music is big, let the visuals follow.
Technically they are faultless, the sound quality is impeccable and despite the likes of Hysteria demanding astonishing levels of bass-playing stamina from mortals, it’s just one of many massively demanding riffs deftly cast out with no fuss on the night.
The three exude the carefree virtuosity that allows a stadium atmosphere to hang quite lightly off them, they’ve embraced their status as one of Europe’s biggest live draws so why wear a cardigan and stare at the floor?
So bring on the personal laser and the pimped grand piano, pump up those confetti-filled weather balloons.
Bands meet a fork in the road where they strip things down or go for broke, and Muse have the wit to do the latter without being dwarfed by their surroundings.
The fact is, for all the 20 foot projection screens and the death ray mike stands – it’s their sound that still dominates the stage.