POV Concert Review: MUSE

Simulation Theory World Tour | London Stadium (London, UK) | 01/06/2019

One sentence verdict: Simply staggering visual presentation syncing the new album’s theme of dystopian sci-fi world with classic Muse hits. [4.5/5]

Muse performing ‘Reaper’ at London Stadium (01/06/2019)

VENUE

Muse’s return to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (remember their “bizarre” — direct quote from Matt Bellamy — performance of Survival in 2012 for the Olympic Games?) on a fine Summer Saturday evening in London was a pure musical delight for the fans but they might have mixed reviews on West Ham United F.C.’s new home stadium. Let’s start with its location. Although the Olympic Park has a reasonably decent access to Central London, connected via Central and Jubilee lines from Stratford, the stadium is not right next to the tube station as fans had to walk about 15 minutes from the tube platform, crossing the famous Westfield mall. This 15-minute route turned into a 40-minute of human flood after the concert as all fans were told to head towards the tube station whilst the other options were all blocked. The tube traffic was an utter nightmare throughout the city as that evening also had a BTS concert at Wembley (Matt made a joke about Wembley being taken, saying “Wow, this is way better than Wembley”) and a Champions League Final between Liverpool F.C. and Tottenham Hotspur F.C.

“Wow, this is way better than Wembley” — Matt Bellamy

London Stadium, Stratford

The stadium itself had a fine facility during the show. The building is still new and the security check was straightforward and did not take that long (even though for the record, I personally entered into the stadium at 5:30pm to get the best spot on the pitch). Those fans who opted to grab their foods inside unfortunately had to face with a series of insane price tags. For example, a pint of Heineken was £6.60 whereas a half-pint of Amstel was £3.50. If this was not a crime against humanity, then I have no idea what this was. There were few beer booths around the side of pitch before the main show started with slightly higher prices. Yes, I could not give full five stars for this concert partially because of this.

Matt singing ‘Thought Contagion’

Muse are now the king of stadium live concerts. Some of their renowned performances, such as the one in Wembley in 2007 and Rome Olympic Stadium in 2013 were all played at football stadiums. In addition, in spite of London’s reputation as an icon of gloomy rainy sky (Muse chose venues like the Royal Albert Hall and the O2 for their previous Autumn, Winter and Spring concerts in London), the local weather has been fine, 26 degrees high with a clear blue sky.

SETLIST

The constant topic that has been debated within the Muse fanbase, especially in Reddit was that Muse had kept the same setlist during their North American tour. Statistically speaking, almost 95% of each setlist was identical apart from few variations in the intro or outro of some songs, hence they have a valid point. However, after the concert I wondered whether it was necessary to change the setlist for every gig. Surely there must be some fans preferring to be surprised by a sudden cameo of their old favourite tune. I am fully aware of how amazing this experience is from my first ever concert of Muse at the O2 back in 2016, when I had no awareness on what to expect from a live performance. Yet in the era of Instagram, people may choose to know which song is going to be played in few seconds so they could get ready for it. People nowadays immediately raise their phones and complaining about this during the show will not change anything unless the artist bans those devices — like Jack White. As much as I advocate the lesser usage of mobile at the concert (Have your view of the stage ever been distracted? — Of course you have.), sometimes you have to admit this new trend and embrace it whether you like it or not.

Muse actually did change their setlist a bit this time, as they played Bliss for the first time in the Simulation Theory Tour. Stockholm Syndrome was played longer than what I expected, despite being grouped together with other songs such as Reaper and New Born for the Encore before the usual closure, Knights of Cydonia. They performed almost 80% of the song apart from the bridge part.

I could definitely tell that Muse have listed songs with similar guitar set-ups so they could easily move on to the next song right afterwards. Classic Muse hits like Plug In Baby and New Born were performed with neater sounds but less ad hoc effects, as if they tried to emphasis the smoothness of their show. I was quite impressed when Matt naturally carried on the shift from the piano intro to the main riff in New Born, just like its studio version, although some fans pointed out that they could hear some technical errors during Reaper but I do not recall hearing this.

Muse performing ‘Starlight’

It was an all-round vintage Muse performance. It did not feature that many songs from The 2nd Law album for some reason (Was I the only one expecting them to play Survival again?) but overall I was satisfied with their choice. I remember being so overwhelmed when Matt went down off the front stage and shook hands with the fans nearby while singing Mercy. Some concerts tend to concentrate new songs in the beginning which may risk the drop of engagement with the audience but Muse mixed both old and new in a well-balanced manner.

VISUAL

Stunning visual effects

One of the most fascinating parts of Muse is their seamless storytelling. Designed by the famous illustrator Kyle Lambert (Yes, the one designed the Stranger Things poster for Netflix), the sci-fi visual effects including lasers, hologram and flare perfectly synced with the live show broadcast on the gigantic curved screen. The blend was so natural that one had to ask how they apply those effect filters during a live show. Whoever in charge of visual effects deserves a massive respect. These effects enabled Muse to present the dystopian future where robots and artificial intelligence (AI) have replaced humans to the audience while slotting their previous hits between each chapter. Matt emerged from the front stage surrounded by cyborgs with trumpets wearing a metallic gauntlet (homage to Thanos?). There were even actual people walking vertically on the screen. Probably the most impressive moment was when Matt ‘dissolved’ into the arcade simulation right the end of Propaganda. They cleverly slotted in some bits of their high-quality music video clips of skeleton robots between the songs, reasonable since band members are not as young as they used to rock Glastonbury in 2004.

TIPS

If you really want to enjoy the very moment of Muse concert, please choose pitch standing. I highly doubt you can find a better party than jumping, dancing and singing amongst your fellow thousands of Muse fans while you see Matt rocking right on your eyesight occasionally with Chris.

If you think you are not tall enough then try to arrive at the stadium early so you can take the front area of the pitch. Please do not squeeze into the crowds just 10 minutes before the concert. No one likes that, even you when you are on the other side. Bring a battery bank if you are planning to film the moment in case of running out of your mobile or camera battery. Be prepared for beer cups flying at you in the middle of main riff and take off your sunglasses if you think you cannot risk to break it.

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