Muse at 3Arena, Dublin, 5 April 2016

Muse, the paranoid, modern prog-rock masters, arrived at 3Arena on their Drones World Tour carrying the weight of expectation that follows one of the best live acts on the planet and also the weight of the innumerable articulated trucks required to ship their 360 stage production around the world. It’s an impressive sight, with a rotating inner stage and elevated runways for Matt Bellamy and Chris Wolstenholme to canter up and down and menace the crowd with face-melting riffs.  It’s also nothing less than you would expect from Muse, who are a Glastonbury headliner this year, and who always err on the side of awesome spectacle.

The show is preceded by a repeated public service announcement requesting people to turn the flash off on their phones which would disrupt the extensive visual projections and everyone’s enjoyment of the show, however much like the safety demonstration on a plane, you could sense the crowd’s eyes glazing over: “Whatever”.

The new songs sound punchy and muscular with the three lads (and a keyboard player half obscured behind the drums) creating an incredibly beefy sound. Bellamy’s solo on Reapers features the classic ingredients of shredding: finger taps and string scrapes. The fact that this kind of virtuoso guitar playing is unfashionable outside the confines of thrash metal matters not a jot to this audience. By contrast, old favourite Bliss seems to have lost some of its lustre for Bellamy.

Visual effects abound with the band throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at us: During The Handler a neat visual trick has Matt and Chris as puppets seemingly controlled by a giant malevolent robot puppet master; Starlight sees giant confetti balloons bounce around the crowd; and confetti and streamers are blasted out of cannons for the climax of Mercy. You start to feel for the cleaning contractors.

The virtuosity of all three members is constantly on display and Wolstenholme’s bass playing and presence on the stage cannot be underestimated; he and drummer Dominic Howard playing a pounding interlude before being rejoined by Bellamy in crooning mode for the Queen-inspired Madness. It must be said that while both Bellamy and Wolstenholme are happy to engage with Howard they do seem to do their utmost to avoid direct contact with eachother. Who’s paranoid now?

The triple-whammy of Map Of The Problematique, Hysteria and Time Is Running Out keep those craving older tracks happy, however it is with new track The Globalist that the oft-threatened Spinal Tap moment finally arrives in the shape of a large inflatable, radio-controlled spaceship which does a lap of the arena. There is audible sniggering in some quarters, so reminiscent is it of the famous miniature Stonehenge from that movie. It is large but not large enough that people could actually fit, and the ominous rockets on the sides bear the wrinkles of an inflated children’s toy. This is accompanied by projections of a gleaming goddess presiding over a post-apocalyptic city, and, frankly, it’s all a bit much.

However all of this pomposity is quickly forgotten when the opening salvo of Knights Of Cydonia quickly sends the crowd into a frenzy of pogoing delight and provides a euphoric end to the show. Even with the occasional misstep you have to admire Muse for their ambition. Let’s just hope that their dystopian visions do not prove prophetic.

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