mon 14/10/2019

Muse, 02 review - bombastic Brit-rock with a sci-fi theme | reviews, news & interviews

Muse, 02 review - bombastic Brit-rock with a sci-fi theme

Muse, 02 review - bombastic Brit-rock with a sci-fi theme

Instrumental genius and a brilliantly ludicrous cocktail of styles

Dystopian laser light shows and progressive rock

For a band mostly known as a brilliantly ludicrous cocktail of other’s people’s sound-styles, the Simulation Theory tour is proof that Muse have become musical legends in their own right.

Yes, their progressive rock is the combined conglomeration that would result of you threw Queen, The Darkness, Prince and Radiohead in the tumble dryer and they came out crackling with static. But while there are intelligent and irreverent references to elements of the above, the bombastic futuristic narrative and preposterously prophetic wisdom of Muse’s lyrics combined with instrumental genius and crunchy guitar riffs, result in a savagely spacey sci-fi style that’s very much their own.

Opening with “Algorithm”, a strong song warning us that AI machines will take over the world, we see trombone players covered in LED piping and cyberpunk sunglasses. The stage is full of neon chevrons, Space Invader strobe lights, dancers wearing boiler suits and Tron helmets. Chewy synths and simmering tensions remind of Stranger Things, and there’s even a visitor from the Upside Down in “Psycho”.

The spectacular guitar solos (“Pressure”) locate us in a place of solid rock that has also perfectly captured the cultural zeitgeist of both nostalgia and futurism. Muse have an artfully amusing duality which makes us think that while this is all quite entertaining, in reality, it could actually be a bit frightening.

Two claps and a fist-bump signal “Uprising”, during which Matt Bellamy gives over to the audience for the chorus that rings with particular strength. It suddenly feels a little political, this seething mass of fans with their hands in the air, adrenalin coursing, as they sing “they will not force us, they will stop degrading us, they will not control us, we will be victorious”.

Coursing between the new album with “Propaganda” and old favourites like “My Plug In Baby” and “Hysteria”, it’s like hard rock meets Starlight Express by way of Ghostbusters, as dancers in black PVC spray the front row with smoke machine guns as the strobe lights kick in.

We take a quick pause for “Dig Down” as the auditorium lights up with phones and lasers wrap the stage in beams of thin light, before “Madness” bounds into “Time Is Running Out”, then “Take A Bow”, before mayhem is unleashed with the black holes, revelations and expectations of “Starlight”.

A giant robot skeleton puppet appears, gurning above the band who blast out “Algorithm” again, with more spectacular laser effects and dancers with light sabres. The hard metal rock of “Newborn” sees wildness in the mosh pit before “Knights of Cydonia” and a musical finale that sees giant balloons bounce across the auditorium to the sound of face-melting psychedelic guitar jams.

It's a special kind of genius that can take such a legacy of iconic influences, and pair them with a tongue-in-cheek poke at what dystopia could look like while recognising the burgeoning trend for new-wave nostalgia – all via the medium of rock music.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.