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Gig Review: Muse @ Rod Laver Arena, 14th December

“You guys have been fucking incredible” – Dom

There is no other band in the world quite like Muse. They are the best stadium rock band on the planet, and if anyone needed any more proof of this then it was demonstrated perfectly Tuesday night at Rod Laver Arena. If any other band had introduced themselves to the crowd while elevated above the stage, standing in the middle of giant pillars, with the frontman wearing a shiny silver suit complete with LED sunglasses, it would have seemed ridiculous. But when Muse do it, it just seems normal.

Sure, it’s ostentatious and in your face, but the sold out and delirious Rod Laver crowd would not have had it any other way. It’s part of the spectacle when it comes to Muse, and no other band can put on a spectacle like they can. Their music and performance was of course stellar, but it was their stage setup, the energy of the crowd, and above all else the many unique and ridiculous elements of their show that made it one of my favourite gigs of this year, and among the most intense two hours of my life.

We arrived at the venue about an hour after doors, keen as we were to secure a decent general admission spot. It was no surprise that the floor area was already pretty packed by the time we arrived, with everyone sitting down respectfully. We still managed to find a favourable spot, right in the middle of the stage and about fifteen rows back, and settled in for a long wait.

The stage was a true sight to behold, with three towering pillars reaching from the ground to the roof of the stadium. Those familiar with Muse’s stage show knew exactly what to expect from them, but for everyone else they must have been quite the mystery. It made Muse’s Big Day Out stage, which at the time was very impressive, seem like nothing in comparison.

However to be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed by the scope of the venue at first. Perhaps it was because my last true stadium gig was at the enormous Etihad Stadium, but the general admission area seemed pretty small to me. Of course as it turns out this was in part due to the fact that everyone was just sitting down, and the eventual arrival of Muse seemed to increase the scope of the venue tenfold.

As the arrival of the support act, Biffy Clyro, neared, a few people stood up, and naturally what followed was a mass exodus of people from their sitting spots on the ground and a frantic push towards the stage, as the crowd contracted significantly in size, and I was faced with the familiar sensation of being pressed up much too closely to strangers for comfort. All of a sudden however we seemed mighty close to the stage, and the anticipation was growing exponentially.

Biffy Clyro, shirtless as always, eventually appeared on stage, looking rather dwarfed by the pillars behind them. And this was an apt metaphor for their entire set- although they played very competent and at times enjoyable rock music, they really were overshadowed by the impending arrival of Muse, as well as by the intimidating stage setup behind them.

They played one of their biggest songs, The Captain, first, in an obvious attempt to warm up the crowd. However it was just as obvious that everyone in general admission was more concerned with conserving their strength for Muse, and the set never really got going in terms of energy.

Biffy Clyro played for just over half an hour, and even though it was straight forward by-the-books rock music, it was pretty enjoyable here and there. Opening for Muse must be one of the hardest support gigs imaginable, and the boys from Scotland did an admirable job, even if I do wish we had got Passion Pit or Metric, both of whom have supported Muse this year.

The anticipation was reaching a fever pitch as Biffy Clyro’s set finished. Even though there was still a half hour wait until the scheduled arrival of Muse, the excitement in general admission was palpable, and the tiers of seating around us were starting to fill very quickly indeed. There was a bit of an uncomfortable push towards the front going on, but at least for the time being it was nothing compared to that at Muse’s Big Day Out set earlier this year.

All in all the wait could have been much worse, and a mighty Mexican Wave started by the seating area even made for some temporary entertainment. Five minutes past the scheduled arrival of Muse things were starting to get a bit hectic, as everyone surged towards the front and we somehow found ourselves only ten or so rows away from the stage. A small LED square made a fleeting but thoroughly enjoyable appearance on the center pillar. Then, finally, a silhouette appeared inside one of the pillars. It was the unmistakable outline of bassist Chris, and the crowd went mental.

Muse was coming. The silhouette moved slowly up the inside of the pillar, and the crowd’s excitement rose with it. Meanwhile Matt’s unmistakable light-up effects panel of his guitar was clearly visible in the left pillar. The crowd was starting to go mental, already. At long last, an animation played on all three pillars as an introduction track rang out around the arena. The animation, which involved silhouettes of people climbing stairs and eventually falling down, came to an end and, with a simply deafening roar from the crowd, the screens around the pillars collapsed to the ground revealing the three figures within.

The beginning beats of Uprising rung out around the arena, and suddenly nothing else mattered. The crowd lost their collective mind, and the mosh off to a fierce start. Even though it definitely isn’t my favourite Muse, song, it was impossible not to get caught up in the spectacle of Uprising. Matt was wearing a shiny silver suit, complete with Kanye sunglasses, and shone like a beacon from atop his pillar.

Right from the start it was one of those shows where if you weren’t jumping up and down, screaming like a maniac, you were instantly pushed ten rows back. Somehow however we managed to constantly make our way forwards, and found ourselves even closer to the stage, while simultaneously screaming “WE WILL BE VICTORIOUS!” along with thousands of other voices. It was so very much fun.

It was immediately clear that the pillars were more than just an introduction, they were integral to Muse’s show. The bandmembers stayed in their respective pillars for the first three songs of the set, and Dom’s central pillar stage even rotated 360 degrees as he was drumming, which was very cool indeed. Next up was a nice surprise, Resistance, one of my favourite songs from Muse’s latest album. Even though it is a fairly restrained, keys-driven song, the mosh did not die down in the slightest.

So it was that, by the end of the second song, I was already drenched in sweat, and loving every second of it.

But then New Born began, and things lifted to a whole new level. It is just such an utterly incredible track, and the energy in general admission was truly something to behold. Muse had an almost effortless stage presence and energy about them: despite the obvious effort that went into their stage setup, Matt, Chris, and Dom barely spoke a word and were still completely enchanting. New Born was just nuts, especially when the keyboard beginning gave way to that simply enormous guitar riff that bellowed out inside the stadium. As the song finished the pillar stages lowered, and Muse made their way onto the stage at large.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, Muse broke into the beginning of one of my favourite songs of theirs, Map Of The Problematique. The fact that they opted not to play this song when I saw them at Big Day Out made this moment even more the special, and I will not soon forget looking around at my mates joyously, all of us so excited at what was to come, while we simultaneously jumped higher and higher and somehow managed to move closer and closer to the stage. The song did not disappoint either, and was pure awesomeness.

I’m not a big fan of Supermassive Black Hole, but it was still good fun, and gave Muse a chance to use the small stages on either side of the main stage, giving some attention to the seated crowd at either side of the venue. Hysteria meanwhile was as mental as ever, and the mosh by this point was rising to among the most intense I have ever been involved with. “I WANT IT NOW” rung out with almost scary strength, screamed and sung by thousands of adoring voices.

Citizen Erased, United States Of Eurasia, and Sunburn gave Matt a chance to show off his piano skills, even whilst on his pillar stage as it rose back to its original position. Sunburn in particular was a brilliant surprise, given that the band rarely play it, and it provided a very nice blast from the past. The spectacle of the show was growing and growing, and somehow the band kept on finding new ways to make the set exciting and unique.

Helsinki Jam was all kinds of amazing, as both Chris and Dom took to the center pillar as it spun around and rose at the one time, with their backs to one another, jamming away. It was very very cool, and gave the mosh a bit of a chance to regain its collective breath. Some people were definitely struggling however, and none moreso than the guy next to me, who decided now would be a good time to have a bit of a vomit, either due to alcohol, the intensity of the show, or some combination. It wasn’t pretty however, and was quite literally the only negative of the night for me.

One of my least favourite Muse songs, Undisclosed Desires, followed, however I still enjoyed it thanks to an absolutely enormous laser show that dominated the venue, as well as Matt’s awesome keytar. Meanwhile Dom had taken up some kind of electronic drumkit adorned with lights. It was a spectacle that just defied belief. No other band in the world does anything that even comes close to this.

As the lasers temporarily died down the band began playing House Of The Rising Sun, and the crowd took to the task of singing lead vocals with admirable skill and enthusiasm. It was only brief however, and soon Time Is Running Out was emanating from the stage, and the mosh was back in full force. The way the mosh sung that first chorus was truly special, and the sound matched anything that could have come from the stage.

The crowd began a fairly powerful rendition of Happy Birthday for Dom, however the sound must not have reached the stage, because it didn’t stop the band from breaking into that simply magical introduction to the one and only Starlight. It is still one of my all time favourite songs, and it was possibly even more incredible hearing it in the stadium than it was at Big Day Out. It was perfect, utterly and completely perfect. To my great surprise the mosh actually kicked off again in the middle of the song, and moshing to what is effectively a keys-driven love song was pretty awesome.

“It’s nice to see you’re obeying the ‘Do Not Mosh Signs’,” said Dom jokingly, gesturing towards the huge signs that adorned either side of the venue. The entire mosh pit cheered hugely, aware of the fact that we were going utterly insane and that it must look even more insane from the stage. Dom seemed to agree.

Then, that little Plug In Baby riff began, and everything simply exploded. It was massive, enormous, a scene not from this world. The energy was just mental, and the crowd managed to find a whole other level. As if the song needed anything more, gigantic balloons emerged from the roof, and the crowd spent much of the song attempting desperately to jump up and push the balloons upwards, creating intense pockets of the crowd where balloons were drifting downwards. Meanwhile everyone else was perfectly happy to just lose themselves in that guitar riff. Matt somehow managed to direct a huge beam of light with his guitar, and moved it around the crowd, earning huge responses from whomever the beam of light fell on. He looked very pleased with himself indeed.

And all of a sudden, the band departed the stage, leaving only the last remaining giant balloons behind. A groundswell of applause and clapping saw them return quickly however, upon which they played Exogenesis, the first part of their 15 minute symphony from their latest album. It was a chillingly beautiful song, but above all else provided everyone with a chance to catch their breath for what was to come.

As the band put the pillars to use once again, Stockholm Syndrome began, and the mosh lifted once again, to one final level of insanity. Somehow me and my mates managed to find ourselves literally two rows from the stage, as everyone lost their minds to the intense song and people bounced backwards and forwards amongst the crowd like pinballs. It was amazing that we were still standing at this point, let along jumping this high, both arms outstretched to the closed roof, feet barely managing to find solid ground before leaving it again, screaming at the tops of our voices.

It was pretty clear that Muse had one last hurrah left, and it was also perfectly clear what song the crowd wanted to hear. We got our wish, as the band broke into Knights Of Cydonia (although not before Chris had played his epic Man With A Harmonica intro). Talk about going out with a bang. It is an absurd song, and it was so much fun to sing along with the ‘AH AH AH’s at the start of the song, and even sing along with the opening guitar riff. The bellow of “NO-ONE’S GONNA TAKE ME ALIVE!” was unlike anything I have ever heard before.

And so, as the insane mosh finally finished, and Dom took to the front mic to say “You guys have been fucking incredible”, Muse finished their show. And, if I do say so myself, we had been fucking incredible. But so had the band. The sheer spectacle of this show was simply astounding: when you buy a ticket for Muse you are paying for a genuine show, a true stadium experience.

By the end of the show I was covered in sweat, and barely able to remain upright as I walked out of the venue. Everyone was shell-shocked at what we had just witnessed. This show was right up there with the most intense gigs I have ever been a part of. To be honest I was a bit unsure going into it- I had dropped off a bit in my Muse enthusiasm and hadn’t listened to them at all for a good four months, but this show not only served to bring back a whole lot of memories but also to create its own. Gigs simply don’t come any bigger than this.

While they only spoke a few words between them, Muse were utterly captivating as band, much more so than they were at Big Day Out. This is a true stadium band, and they were in their element at Rod Laver Arena. You have to respect the way, when it comes to live shows, Muse obliterates the line between genius and insanity. Much of what they manage to pull of certainly falls into both categories.

As much as their latest album has been criticised, and as much as they have become mainstream, there is something truly special about Muse. Their live show is simply one of the greatest shows on earth. And never was this more evident to me than at this show, which will go down as one of the most unforgettable gigs I have ever been to. It was purely insanity, from start to finish.

And didn’t we just fucking love it.

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2 Responses to “Gig Review: Muse @ Rod Laver Arena, 14th December”

  1. Tops review & I’m somewhat jealous I missed their Sydney show. Never nice someone spewing next to you either…the smell…urgh.

  2. Great review. I love the way you write – so descriptive.
    I went on Wednesday night and linked to your blog in my small review.
    http://carlyfindlay.blogspot.com/2010/12/muse-concert-visual-review.html

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