It’s a freezing cold Thursday night and the area around the Manchester Arena is rammed with t-shirted teenagers flocking to see one of the most lauded live acts of recent years. Muse are riding a definite crest at the moment, with ‘Survival’ being used as an official song in the Olympics and their sixth studio album, ‘The 2nd Law’, getting favourable reviews.
So do they deserve the “best band in the world” mantle that gets irritatingly lashed around? Not for us. We can hear the odd bit of Thom Yorke in Matt Bellamy’s vocals, but that’s where the Radiohead comparisons have to end. They’ve always seemed more like a Queen for fifteen year-old girls, with lots of theatrics, rococo operatics and overblown anthems. But 20,000 odd fans would disagree, especially tonight as the buoyant trio take the stage and launch into a two-hour music and light show extravaganza.
Matt Bellamy is in his element throughout, scurrying around the stage and throwing rock star shapes, commanding his crowd from start to finish. The 360-degree stage and the array of LED screens is cutting edge – they’ve got the best in the business taking care of the spectacle – but it’s the music that doesn’t hold up.
They open with the techno scatter of ‘The 2nd Law: Unsustainable’ and play most of the new album, with the anthemic ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ being a popular early set lifter. The Queen influence is apparent throughout, with Freddie’s penchant for screaming histrionics liberally doused all over the 22 songs they blast out. It’s a kind of magic alright, but it’s not for everyone. They close the set with the comical ‘Knights of Cydonia’ and it’s all over. Over the top, over-egged, and ultimately, over-rated.
Words by Nick Rice
Photos by Danny Payne