Last week, the O2 was flooded with the defining sounds of Muse with their classically-influenced progressive rock. If not one of the biggest acts to come from Britain in recent years, they are at least the biggest rock band to come out of Teignmouth. Well-known for being one of the best live bands in Britain, constantly winning awards that confirm as such, fans were sure to be in for a memorable experience.
Opening for such a large band was always going to be difficult, but The Big Pink gave an admirable effort. However, they had a lukewarm response due largely to their uncreative standard rock songs and some really painful flashing lights on stage that detracted from anything that they were trying to do. The only song that got a real reaction from the crowd was ‘Dominoes’, probably because it was their most well-known song due to television use. It may have been the anticipation of what was to come, but the Big Pink simply amounted to an ineffective distraction that served to make everyone that little bit more anxious for the main act to appear.
When Muse came on, the show was nothing short of spectacular. The band opened their performance standing on top of three pillars which doubled as screens for striking projections. The pillars later turned out to be of adjustable height, constantly bringing the band members down to earth and up towards the sky, almost to be worshipped by their masses of adoring fans. The O2, not exactly a venue to be sneezed at, was absolutely packed right up to its vertigo-inducing upper stalls.
Green laser light show, check. Ultra-modern, cyber-revolution influenced projections, check. Rotating drum kit, check. Customary giant glitter-filled balloons released over the crowd, check. Everything about the show was technologically extravagant, fitting with Muse’s sound very well. But ultimately, if you’ve seen them before, it was not exactly new. Since Muse grew in popularity, their stage shows grew to match, and there’s only so much ‘wow’ factor you can pack into a display before it becomes decadent. But what about the music?
The music was fantastic. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that such a large and rich sound can come from a band consisting of only three members. It was a touching moment to see the band revisit ‘Unintended’, one of their earliest singles, and then follow it with a string of heavy rock hits. But when the band turned to their newest material, from recent album ‘The Resistance’, there was a stumbling point. New songs such as ‘Uprising’, which the band opened their set with, ‘Resistance’, ‘Guiding Light’ and ‘United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage)’ just didn’t compare with tracks from previous albums such as the classically frantic ‘Plug In Baby’ and the electronic despair of ‘Map of the Problematique’ in atmosphere and skill. It simply exposed how weak Muse’s recent material is compared to beautifully sweeping numbers they have created in the past. Notable exceptions were ‘Unnatural Selection’ and ‘Exogenesis Symphony Part 1: Overture’ which dazzled refreshingly and stood up well to continue the light started by their predecessors.
It’s a difficult thing to maintain your creative integrity and originality with age, but Muse seemed to have stood up to the task well up to a certain point. Perhaps it is just personal taste, but you really cannot deny that ‘The Resistance’ does not feature their strongest material. It was only with the new songs that Muse seemed to fall down ever so slightly, everything else was spot-on from the amazing show to the wonderful semi-improvised instrumental interludes between songs. The band really got the crowd going and inspired great fanaticism with their ability to play quirky rock tunes that stirred deeper emotions. No doubt when the band bring their show back to Wembley Stadium next year, the epic experience will be repeated once again, but on a bigger and grander scale to match their growing sound.