Not the best live band ever.
Lets see what the fuss is all about as Muse have become the band to name-drop when discussing live performances and have a following who have an obsession that is beyond healthy. Which is not bad going for a band that still come across as the band Radiohead could become if Thom and the boys integrity and politics were swapped for prog-rock and an inflated sense of self-importance.
You may have gathered this is not a review written by a fawning Muse-ite who swallows every drop of pretension the band splutters onto the faces of their followers. The bands output has mainly sat in the "take it or leave" camp for this writer although the singles from the bands latest album have been their best work by miles.
It was a massive start to the set with 'Knights of Cydonia' feeling like a huge Morricone soundtrack. The drums were immense but the guitar widdled far too much to be taken seriously. It was the biggest set of the weekend, theres no arguing with that but again, that leads to the realisation that the set isn't just about the music, which manages to mask the fact that so many of the songs sound so similar. It was remarked earlier that a Pipettes gig is more about the music, it's a show, similar to the Flaming Lips but theres no almighty clamour to proclaim the Pips the best live act on the planet. Theres definitely an element of "the emperors new clothes" to the suggestion that Muse are the live band all must live up to and perhaps a few more comments regarding their nakedness is required.
The first four songs of the set were at times, largely identical and this is a charge that Muse get an easy time on. Ok, they may be a three-piece and they make an impressive racket but theres little variation to the sound. What is of a difference is the bass players moustache which was frankly deplorable and should be required to be shaved off before its owner is allowed entry back into the UK.
As for the good points, and there were good points, lets not suggest there wasn't. 'Supermassive Black Hole' is a hugely funky track and the song works extremely well in their favour, and Matt Bellamys falsetto vocal tears through the crowd. What also springs to mind about this point of the set is how tightly the set is tied into the video screens and lighting. This poses the question how much freedom do the band have to wig out or try different things on a nightly basis?
It's a bit much to be hailed as the best live act if the set is so strictly nailed down that theres no scope for creative freedom. Its not until 'Starlight' appears well into the set that you think that's a different type of song from the rest. Was there a meeting where the agenda was to ignore the fact that Muse are largely one dimensional? If so, perhaps the invitation got lost in the mail? A new band would be criticised for playing thirty minutes of similar material, these guys do it for over an hour.
When thinking of the other bands who played in the same slot on the other nights, its hard to think of Muse being better musically or having better songs than anyone else, they just win out by sheer brute strength, by being bigger in the non-music factors and by having the presence of being this band to go see live.
It was good to see Muse in their bombastic glory and its obvious why the believers cream themselves over the stage show but if you're a non-believer, its just way too much style and not enough substance to be fully enjoyable.