13th August 2008
Marlay Park, Dublin, Ireland
Article By Kevin Murphy
Are Muse prog? Not in the traditional sense perhaps, but in the way that, say, Queen or Led Zeppelin or Radiohead (the band that Muse are most often compared to) have their proggier moments, they are. Certainly, a number of the required elements are in place; the epic and often bombastic (in a good way) nature of some of the songs, the stunning visuals, and the often virtuoso musicianship. Add to that, a willingness to expand the musical pallet and draw on a wide range of influences, then Muse can most definitely be called a progressive (in the true sense of the word) rock band.
Marlay Park is an excellent venue and is the perfect setting for a show of this nature. The area in which the stage is set up is surrounded on all sides by trees forming a natural arena, and once darkness falls, the spattering rain aside, one feels like this could be an indoor show.
Four huge satellite dishes dwarf the stage and dominate the proceedings. Brilliantly utilised, they not only move and fire lasers at the sky and audience, but double up as screens to project visuals on to. They’re a bit like Floyd’s circular screen times four. In fact, it’s the Floyd’s live spectacular that the Muse live experience invites the most obvious comparisons to.
Shortly after 9pm, the stage comes to life, the aforementioned satellite dishes doing their stuff amid a flurry of strobes, smoke and sound effects. Indeed, it's almost an anticlimax when Muse arrive, not from some mothership to this, the latest stop on some intergalatic tour, but simply walk onstage and pick up their instruments. Matt Bellamy gives a matey wave, and off they go, launching into a set drawn largely from ‘Black Holes & Revelations’ with large chunks of ‘Origin of Symmetry’ and ‘Absolution’ thrown in for good measure. ‘Showbiz’ is ignored completely and it’s easy to see why; Muse have moved on a great deal from the Radiohead lite of that debut.
The set opens with ‘Map of the Problematique’ which is followed by the funky ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ and for the next few songs the pace never really lets up. There is a huge amount to take in and the visuals compliment the apocalyptic nature of some of the lyrics perfectly (flying bombers, marching robots, famine, war, the usual culprits).
The aforementioned virtuoso playing is demonstrated to full effect when Bellamy and grand piano move centre stage for ‘Butterflies & Hurricanes’ and ‘Space Dementia’, the latter complete with Rachmaninov-like mini piano concerto. It does get a little bit self-indulgent at times, but hey, that’s allowed when you’re this talented. Christopher Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard are no slouches either and get their turn with a drum and bass excursion which is something akin to a cyberpunk version of Squire and White’s ‘Whitefish’.
After this (and a brilliant version of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’) it’s back to the main agenda and the second half of the show is even more intense than the first, with ‘Invincible’ and ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ being particularly impressive.
Far too soon, the main set is over, but they return quickly for an encore that cranks the intensity up to even greater levels. Starting, inevitably I guess, with the classic Starlight, its simple piano riff is bellowed out by a crowd now in rapture and jumping up and down as one great mass. Plug in Baby is next before they launch into the song that proves Muse's prog credentials, if they were ever in any doubt. ‘Knights of Cydonia’ is nothing short of astonishing in the live setting. Imagine if you will, Rush playing the Tornado's ‘Telstar’ at a Mexican wedding. Invite Jailbreak era Thin Lizzy along for the ride, then you’re getting some idea of where this song is coming from. The song’s climax sees the band disappear in a massive cloud of smoke and back on board the (in my mind) mothership.
Muse deserve their huge success. They have it all: talent, integrity and, in Matt Bellamy, a genuine genius. They have a strong work ethic and strive hard to offer something different from the current slew of generic guitar bands. Muse can only go from strength to strength and with youth on their side (the band members are barely in their thirties) they should be around for a long time to come.
1. Map of the Problematique
2. Supermassive Black Hole
3. Dead Star
4. New Born
6. Butterflies & Hurricanes
7. Feeling Good
8. Space Dementia
9. Drum and Bass Solo
12. Time Is Running Out
13. Stockholm Syndrome
14. Take a Bow
16. Plug In Baby
17. Knights Of Cydonia
Muse Official Website
DPRP Review: HAARP
DPRP Review: Black Holes And Revelations
DPRP Review: Origin Of Symmetry