Muse gig review

Muse shone at the Download Festival, Donnington Park

Whilst Mike Patton of reunited alt-metal legends Faith No More wiggled his hips, pouted his lips and strutted down the Download catwalk. “Ego ramp!”, Muse drummer Dom Howard excitedly snapped Instagram pics side-of-stage.

Muse shone at the Download Festival, Donnington Park
Muse shone at the Download Festival, Donnington Park

Matt Bellamy bursts onto the same catwalk for his first ever Download headline set, pouncing and thrashing with such glamboyant fervour that he slips and falls in a heap mid-riff.

Joining the throng are weekend Satanists, antisocial renegades with goatees trimmed just so. Casuals and diehards wear hoodies adorned with anguished skulls, wraithlike figures and fiery orbs brandished by hellish messengers. A posse of grey-bearded overlords wander past in black ponchos, looking alarmingly like Death Eaters. It all feels strangely romantic, like a communion of misfits in love with their own mortality.

So what about Muse – illuminati fighters, glam-metal insurgents, a band whose chirpy, motormouth frontman once bought out his local shop’s baked beans supply, lest England’s oil suddenly run dry? Let’s be honest: the world’s their oyster. Fusing pop’s daring and reinvention with metal’s chronic heaviness.

The Teignmouth trio confront childlike dreams of artistic glory with manic devotion, then become artists of those dreams. And when you’re in the fantasy business, the bigger the stage, the better.

Muse warned Download music festival goers this would be a “stripped back” set due to festival constraints, but that just means they’re not flying drones over everyone’s heads; with crossfire spotlights, fireworks and stagefront flamethrowers, nobody’s complaining. Bouncing onstage for ‘Psycho’, Bellamy recovers quickly from his fall, joking, “And that’s how you make an arse out of yourself!” Second ‘Drones’ track ‘The Handler’ goes down like an electric storm, its fusion of prog and heavy rock perfectly tailored to the longhaired crowd. For ‘New Born’, Bellamy grabs the guitar and assumes his trademark pose at the mic, back arched and chest tensed, as if primed for an energy ball to burst free. ‘Hysteria’ heralds euphoric scenes, before an epic suite of deep cuts – ‘Micro Cuts’, ‘Dead Star’, ‘Agitated’, ‘Citizen Erased’ – seals the deal for diehards.

After 16 years, innumerable festival headline appearances and seven increasingly batshit albums, we know the deal with Muse. They write killer singles about nebulous conspiracies, they tell interviewers that the president’s a lizard and Tony Blair did 9/11, then they walk onstage in glitter-suits and space boots and everyone goes home smiling. But there’s more to it than that, too.

When Matt bows his head and sits at his chromatic piano for ‘Citizen Erased’, you glimpse the obsessive teen with a hyperactive imagination, living out a fantasy of total musical genius. As the band’s spaceship takes off into the pop stratosphere, Muse have two jobs: to keep that fantasy alive, but also to live out its absurdity, beaming back our own deranged, delusional desires. Right now, they’re making fine work of both.

Muse say they ditched electronic influences because songs were ‘difficult to play live’.

Band recently topped the UK Albums Chart with seventh album ‘Drones’.

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