Wednesday 6th April 2016 – SSE Arena, Belfast
It’s been 10 years since Muse last graced the SSE arena or as it was known then The Odyssey. At that time I was unfortunately too young to attend, finally getting to see them live last year when they suddenly announced a string of intimate dates prior to the release of their latest album, ‘Drones’. One of these dates was the Ulster Hall where I witnessed them put on a great show. While they played lesser known material, their set was short and sweet and left me wanting more. Thankfully they announced they would be returning to Belfast this year as part of their Drones UK arena tour.
Muse are known for putting on a show and for this tour they’ve decided to take a leaf out of U2’s book specificall,y their 360 tour. Rather than having the stage at one end of the arena it is instead circular and sits in the middle of the arena with a walkway either side, where Bellamy and Wolstenholme would stalk up and down.
The atmosphere slowly built up as the lights went out and ‘Drones’ started to play resulting in the first of many appearances of the drones. These were large beach ball like creations, see through with solid frames and LEDs attached. Powered by propellers, they produced choreographed “dances” with one another, just out of reach of the crowd below. The band introduced themselves with ‘Psycho’ from the new album, setting the mood for the rest of the show. With little time to catch our breath, it was straight into ‘Reapers’, allowing Matt Bellamy to show off his guitar skills with the tapping intro.
The next song was a surprise to see so early in the set, but an adoring crowd lapped up every riff from ‘Plug In Baby’. The rest of the set focused mainly on their newer material but featured the odd song from ‘Absolution’ and ‘Black Holes & Revelations’. They provided two surprises with songs from ‘Absolution’, playing ‘Apocalypse Please’ with Matt switching to the piano showing off his musical versatility. After showing a clip of JFK, the audio of which is used as a lead in to the track ‘Defector’ on Drones, they played personal favourite, ‘Stockholm Syndrome’.
Muse’s stage show also utilised projectors to show various images from the performance itself as well as different imagery relating to the songs on giant screens hung from the ceiling. It was used particularly effectively for ‘The Handler’ with robotic puppet hands seemingly tethered by strings to both Matt and Chris as they moved about on either walkway. We were even treated to an inflatable bomber plane and people shaped confetti.
The political imagery used may be off-putting for some and personally the over-long ‘The Globalist’ would have been better replaced by a couple of different tracks. They also did not have a traditional encore instead having the Drones track play again whilst various imagery was shown. With another band it might have seemed a bit presumptuous or pretentious. For their encore we were treated to ‘Mercy’ before their traditional closer, ‘Knights of Cydonia’.
Overall though Muse once again showed why they are so widely praised for their live act. They put on a performance, their live sound is always impressive and they throw in a few surprises to make the overall experience a spectacle rather than just your average concert. With Muse you definitely get your money’s worth!