The whining started roughly two nanoseconds after the news that Muse are to headline the Download’s main stage on Saturday, June 14 was announced. “Fucking Muse? Seriously?” commented one disgruntled poster on a Download fan page on Facebook. “Muse are a lump of shit,” wrote another. “What a bag of wank this line-up is turning out to be...” was the considered opinion of a third. At the time of writing, no-one has yet posted to the effect that ‘Muse are NOT Metal!!!’ or asked ‘Why not just book S Club 7 for Sunday night to really rub our faces in the piss?’ but it can surely only be a matter of…oh, wait…
In truth, promoter Andy Copping’s decision to book one of Britain’s biggest guitar bands to headline Download is an inspired one, and a genuine coup. Matt Bellamy’s band are among the finest live acts in the world, and their debut bow at Donington Park is sure to be another landmark evening in their storied career. The decision makes perfect sense for both band and the festival. With all due respect, there’s only so many times you can watch Maiden, Metallica, Sabbath and Download’s other hardy perennials grinding out riffs written 20-30 years ago on a rain-soaked Derbyshire night, and Muse’s presence on the bill will thrust an adrenaline spike into the body of Britain’s most well-established rock festival. The band have headlined the biggest festivals in the world – Coachella, Glastonbury, SummerSonic, Lollapalooza – and their homecoming is sure to be a spectacular affair. As teenagers, Matt Bellamy, Dom Howard and Chris Wolstenholme got schooled in the art of festival showmanship by acts such as Rage Against The Machine and The Prodigy, and precious few acts are more capable of bringing shock and awe to metal’s hallowed turf.
Plus, the timing is perfect. On their two most recent albums, 2009’s The Resistance and 2012’s The 2nd Law, the Teignmouth trio were given to indulge their most outré, experimental tendencies: their forthcoming seventh album, due for release ahead of their Donington appearance, promises to be rather different. Matt Bellamy predicted that his next batch of songs would strip away all “electronics, symphonics and orchestral work and all that kind of stuff” and the recent news that the band are recording their new album with Mutt Lange, the producer who turned AC/DC and Def Leppard into global superstars, bodes well for a knock-out return. It’s not as if Muse can’t do riffs – lend an ear to New Born, Stockholm Syndrome or the indecently thrilling Knights of Cydonia if you’re in any doubt on that score – and the prospect of Lange corralling Bellamy’s 21st century guitar hero pyrotechnics into more straight-ahead rock anthems is delicious.
Beyond that, there’s the simple, undeniable truth that Muse put on a rock show like no other. Last time out they packed so much pyro into their live show that numerous residents of Coventry thought the city’s football stadium was on fire…and that was just during the dress rehearsals. Then there were the lasers, the jaw-dropping state-of-the-art visuals, a giant light bulb floating above the crowd and a fire-spitting, five metre-tall robot named Charles stomping around. I mean, Status Quo were great last year and all, but they didn’t have a fucking robot moshing along to Caroline, did they? No, no they didn’t.
Look, just trust us here, Muse at Download will be a genuine event, a once-in-a-lifetime, scrub your eyes, OMG!-fest to put even Kim Kardashian’s mighty arse in the shade. It’ll attract a host of new fans to the festival, put Download firmly back on the map, and give a huge boost of confidence to the British rock scene. And frankly, we can’t wait. Speaking last year, Matt Bellamy complained that no-one had yet allowed his band to land a UFO-shaped zeppelin balloon during a gig: has anyone got the number for Air Traffic Control at East Midlands Airport?