by Lauren James
When Muse announced a fortnight ago that they were embarking on a surprise small venue tour, something stirred in Musers of old. Now more accustomed to spying the action though binoculars at a festival, fans salivated at the prospects of a low-key, academy tour where the whites of the Teignmouth trio’s eyes could actually be seen. Looking around the room of fans at Manchester Academy on Sunday night, it was hard to shake the observation that these were the diehards with the fastest internet connections (all tickets sold out in a matter of seconds), though thanks to paperless ticketing, the touts were foiled this time.
To be within five metres of the stadium rockers better known for selling out Wembley is a surreal experience. Without the bright lights and funky stage set-ups they’ve become renowned for, as well as a conspicuous absence of a grand piano, it quickly became clear that the guitar was king once again. With the release of forthcoming album Drones set for June 8th, it seems the band sought to justify their Download Festival headline slot this summer by shedding the embarrassment of their recent foray into dubstep and unleashing an evening of back-to-basics hard riffing.
This was certainly a set for the fans, with all of The 2nd Law (thankfully) missing in action, while the punchy riff and stomping chorus of ‘Uprising’ slotted in neatly alongside new tracks ‘Psycho’ and ‘Reapers’. The latter recent releases took on a reassuring credibility, the sludgy, fist-pumping basslines distracting from overtly politicised, sledgehammer lyrics. However, it was no more a fan’s gig than one who’d clicked ‘buy all’ on iTunes: noted B-sides ‘Fury’ and ‘The Groove’ were welcome rare inclusions, but the super-rare Muse – the shrieks of ‘Spiral Statics’ and ‘Shrinking Universe’ – still don’t get a look in in the uber-polished live sets. Other dates on the Psycho Tour were treated to tracks from 1999 debut Showbiz, such as ‘Uno’ and ‘Muscle Museum’, but these nascent, angst-ridden plays were omitted on the Mancunian stage.
The crowd were worked into a jumping, screaming, moshing frenzy by the chain of heavy tracks ‘Hysteria’, ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ and ‘Hyper Music’ before clapping along to space ballad ‘Starlight’ and snaking hips in sync to ‘Supermassive Black Hole’. Matt’s vocals were occasionally drowned out by 2,000 punters roaring along to the likes of ‘Time Is Running Out’ and ‘Plug In Baby’ in a show of passion that saw the band looking distinctly impressed.
Live favourite ‘Knights Of Cydonia’, that Morricone-an slingshot around Mars, closed the show and had everyone in the house bouncing along to the galloping beat. For many, the show served a middle finger to the doubters sceptical of the band’s celebrity status; for others, it was about remembering why Muse still deserved their love. Either way, Bellamy, Wolstenholme and Howard blew it out of the water with a relentless, full-fat homage to a career that dips, twists and shows no sign of halting.
MORE: 10th anniversary of Muse’s Absolution
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Tags: Chris Wolstenhome, Dead Inside, Dom Howard, Lauren James, live review, Manchester Academy, Matt Bellamy, Muse, Psycho tour
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