Almost precisely three years since their last Australian tour, England’s finest alt-rock freedom-fighters, Muse, made their triumphant return to Brisbane last night.
The Entertainment Centre’s arena was brimming close to capacity by the time the support band, Birds of Tokyo, launched into the skittish heavy rock of their 2008 single Silhouettic. Lead singer Ian Kenny demanded the attention of the arena audience with his own quirky brand of dance moves. “Man, this is going to be a special night,” he mused, after a sing-along-filled rendition of 2010’s hit single, Plans.
Impressively, Kenny’s vocals remained faultless and solid despite the size of the arena and his bandmates’ equally extensive sound. With their exploration into more intricate and symphonic musical styles over the last two albums, the Perth-based five-piece proved to be a fitting warm-up for the night’s headliner. Birds of Tokyo closed with one of the feel-good moments of the evening, their triple-platinum single Lanterns accompanied by a vast sea of swaying smartphones.
After a short intermission, the arena was plunged into darkness once again. The crowd’s eager screams quickly turned into a thunderous steady clap, as the electronic bass beats of The 2nd Law: Isolated System pulsated through the chests of all in attendance. Simultaneously, a giant pyramid of screens displaying scenes of war, descended layer by layer from the ceiling to come to a rest on the stage. Then, momentary silence.
Before anyone had time to react, a wave of heavily distorted guitar chords ripped through the air. The giant illuminated pyramid ascended to reveal the power trio everyone had been waiting for. With an expertly composed air of cool, the three mighty men of Muse smashed out Supremacy and Supermassive Black Hole back-to-back.
Lead singer Matt Bellamy sported a few more inches of head hair than last time, and had arranged it as a strategic mess gelled skyward, making him look curiously like the next Doctor Who. Aesthetics aside, the tiny man is an immense talent. Guitarist, pianist, keytarist and tremendous vocalist, Bellamy leads the show with such ease that one might wonder if he has actually descended from the somewhere among the cosmos he sings so frequently about. Bellamy’s emphatic rockstar moves and falsetto notes hit the mark every damn time.
But Muse are indeed a trio, and each of the band members bring something unique and complementary to the table. Bassist Chris Wolstenholme’s dexterity on his weapon of choice is second to none. Five songs in, a string of white LEDs lining his touch-screen-controlled bass guitar floated its way through the darkness to the top of the catwalk extending from the main stage.
Then, a single white spotlight pinpointed his position and the unmistakeable undulating bass notes of Hysteria overflowed from the gigantic arena speakers. Such older songs seemed to get a much more enthusiastic response from the crowd, with clear favourites Feeling Good, Time Is Running Out, Plug In Baby and Starlight all receiving the loudest and wildest sing-and-mosh-alongs of the evening.
18 songs in, Muse take the show to ever greater heights with another apparent Doctor Who tribute — the theme song echoer, Uprising. Percussionist Dominic Howard, now clothed in a lurid-red full bodysuit, took centre stage for this pre-encore climax. It was mesmerising, and a Seven-Nation-Army-esque projection of Howard, multiplied on the giant pyramid screens, beat his endless marching drums.
Whether or not Muse are indeed the “Best Act in the World”, there’s no doubt they’ve polished the art of stadium rock. From Bellamy’s shiny, silver shoes right up to the giant smoke cannons, it’s a flawless production. The only criticism, with little room for on-stage banter during the fast-paced, seamless song transitions, the whole process comes across a tad impersonal.
The rock superstars concluded a spectacular two-hours with none other than the London 2012 Olympics’ official song, Survival, and Bellamy’s falsetto shriek of “Yes, I’m gonna win!” Yes, Muse, you sure do win.
Photos: Muse, Birds of Tokyo – Entertainment Centre, Brisbane 10/12/13
Photos by Charlyn Cameron