Muse Live Review - London, 02 Arena

Muse take over the 02 Arena with their stadium prog

Muse live on stage at the 02 Arena in London
(Image: © Will Ireland)

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Say what you like about Muse, but they know how to put on a show, and with this performance they’re aiming big. Pink Floyd big. Rolling Stones big. U2 big.

A giant mothership of a rig is suspended high above the O2 floor, filled with a dozen giant plastic orbs. Their function becomes apparent during the opening Drones, as they slowly depart their docks, lift into the air, drop over the edge of the rig and descend into the arena, blinking and spinning slowly, unsupported by any visible means. It’s magical, and sets the bar high for an evening of entertainment that’s heavy on bombast and ambition.

Everything is designed to impress, from Matt Bellamy’s extraordinary V8 of a guitar, which sounds like it was tuned by the race engineers at Cosworth, to the video projections stretching the entire width of the arena. It’s a vast, dizzying, jaw-dropping spectacle, a musical equivalent of the Blue Man Group or Cirque du Soleil. Bellamy’s tales of corruption and conspiracy are rendered on a massive scale, like Roger Waters’ in The Wall, the show wringing maximum visual impact from ostensibly small stories.

(Image credit: Will Ireland)

If that makes it sound a little earnest, fear not, there are moments of lightness and charm. Like during Supermassive Black Hole, as giant confetti-filled balloons bounce around the arena. They’re designed to be punctured, but by the song’s end, none have, so drummer Dominic Howard chases them down, completing the job with his sticks; each new explosion prompting cheers of approval.

Or when bass player Chris Wolstenholme, disorientated by playing in the round, wanders to the wrong side of the stage to collect a new instrument and has to jog across to the other to complete the job.

Mostly, though, it is a serious business. Bellamy’s riffs crunch and churn – he throws in references to Rage Against The Machine, Hendrix and AC/DC – and the audience bounce up and down accordingly.

Muse are a band who appeal to people who don’t usually like ‘This Kind Of Thing’. Perhaps they’re the musical equivalent of those Marvel franchise movies that people who never read Marvel comics turn up to see in their droves, without ever quite knowing why. It’s undeniably spectacular, but the popcorn is overpriced and the story doesn’t really stand up to much scrutiny. But it’s a memorable night out, and everyone’s delighted to have seen it on the big screen.

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.