Some bands tend to be really proud of their understatement. You know, ‘letting the music’ speak and everything. ‘No big show just the songs.’ And as lovely and honest this might be from time to time, sometimes there’s nothing wrong about a bit show. British rock band MUSE is well aware of that fact and they are certainly not hiding their passion for megalomaniac stage buildings and show effects. Almost two decades after Matt Bellamy, Dominic Howard and Chris Wolstenholme met at Teignmotuh Community College and started up their band MUSE have become a phenomenon and one of the biggest bands in the world. Why? Well, one aspect might be that they are highly gifted musicians, another one is their constant ability to push their sound into new directions. Whether you like all the synthie-pop, r&b and dubstep-experiments of the past years of not – it helped the trio get into a quite comfortable position. Like playing a show in Berlin’s opulent Waldbühne, for example.
So what to expect when MUSE unleash their epic tour machinery? Giant screens? Check! Fire! Check, Check, Check! A lot of smoke? Yup. Lasers? A bit. Totally overacted posing? Probably. Oh, and actors! And a giant robot. Fifteen years after the release of their first EP the trio sees its live concert more than ever as a show with almost theatrical dramaturgy. There’s no space left for improvisations. Everything is perfectly timed and flawless. MUSE are perfectionists within their music and their live setting. So, of course they start their epic show with a giant fire fountain and Supremacy, the opener of last year’s sixth longplayer The 2nd Law. The level has been set, the upcoming a bit more than hundred minutes follow this concept. MUSE play a solid selection of tracks from the past one and half decades while using their media systems quite clever. Big video screens, smoke and fire are just one aspect but the band brings the theatre concept on a new level by actually having actors on stage, miming to their songs.
The way MUSE are criticizing society and its current decline might not be the most subtle one but it’s a quite entertaining way. There is a banker throwing money into the audience during the track Animals before dying via heart attack. Right after this bassist Chris Wolstenholme (who recently seemed to have a hair transplant – finally) pays tribute to the dead banker by playing Ennio Morricone’s famous Man With A Harmonica before his fellow bandmates start to play the epic Knights of Cydonia. Ridiculous but in a consequence that’s just to adorable to not be impressed by it. MUSE are taking their dystopian fun quite serious and that might be one aspect why it works. During Feeling Good there is an actress dressed up as secretary who dies by drinking too much fuel from a gasoline pump. Yes, really. MUSE have always been masters of ceremony and with every new tour they bring this concept closer to perfection.
It works because the music is strong. The newer poppier tracks like Madness or Undisclosed Desires work quite well in combination with the harder old ones like Bliss or Time Is Running Out. And whenever you think MUSE have gotten too soft in the past years they are playing Stockholm Syndrome which hasn’t lost its frenetic wilderness one decade after being released on the group’s 2003 album Absolution. A stunning masterpiece. Berlin’s Waldbühne offers a quite pleasing audience on that night, going as furious as the band allows them. And especially Matt Bellamy gets better and better with age as a frontman in the tradition of Bono and … well … Freddie Mercury. There, we said it. But the comparison is not that arbitrary.
At the end, for the first of two encores, MUSE even let a trashy looking robot drive through the audience. Yes, a robot. With red eyes and steam coming out of his head while they are playing the dubstep-like madness Unsustainable. And of course, there is fire involved as well. This is just pure entertainment. A big show but unlike many other show acts, MUSE combine the superficiality with a very high level of musicality. They aren’t afraid to take risks, to think big and to challenge their long time fans as well. And that’s why they are where they are – on top of the world. And if society is doomed to fall apart – why not with a bit of entertainment? MUSE are the band that provides the show program for it. A wise choice.