Muse are my favourite band of all time and having strongly admired them for so long, it was long overdue to experience one of their concerts. The trio are renowned for their extravagant and energetic live performance and have earned eleven awards in the live category.
In 2007, eight years and four albums into their career, after gradually, release by release, ascending the gig ladder, Muse booked the biggest headline shows of their entire life, at the newly-constructed Wembley Stadium, which is without doubt, the pinnacle of UK venues. Muse, in that year, were at that level where they could organise their own massive summer headline concerts, and they decided on the 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium above venues such as Milton Keynes Bowl and Hyde Park, as they relished the prospect of shifting to stadium status and that Wembley were insistent on having a British band to host the first concert at the new venue. And no better suited to this is the most-celebrated live act of the 21st century, Muse.
Muse, despite having the confidence to arrange the ambitious concert, were deeply concerned (sleepless nights) that it would fail to sell out. However, all this anxiety was banished when the 90,000 tickets for the 16th June show sold out in 45 minutes and fans with tickets seemed to be the fortunate minority rather than majority as demand outstreched the single date drastically. In response another show was added on the following night without the band’s knowledge, which also sold out. Muse were astonished.
These monumental gigs were the greatest Muse had ever performed, rising to the auspicious occasion successfully with an elaborate stage set, stunning production and a well-crafted setlist. The second show was documented on a DVD entitled ‘HAARP’, and having watched it countless times, I was growing progressively more fervent to attend a Muse concert, and I prayed that they would revisit Wembley Stadium on their next tour.
And my prayers were answered. Muse had decided, after touring most Europe’s and America’s biggest arenas on the ‘Resistance Tour‘ , on embarking on a summer European stadium/festival tour. This included headlining slots at renowned festivals such as Rock In Rio, Rock Am Ring/Rock Im Park, Glastonbury and T In The Park/Oxygen, amongst many others and included playing massive football stadiums such as Stade De France and San Siro, amongst many others. But by far the most significant date of the summer tour was Muse’s decision to return to Wembley Stadium. At this point, I was ecstatic and I was definitely applying for tickets because the prospect of missing out on this concert was unbearable. However, I was truly aware of how difficult it would be to obtain tickets, as demand would be overwhelming as usual with any Muse show. But in November 2009, having attempted to purchase Muse tickets twice before (The Den and The O2 Arena), I was rewarded with the best of them all, three Wembley Stadium tickets for 11th September 2010. My dream had just turned into reality. I then witnessed the 11th September show sell out and not surprisingly a second date was added on the 10th September. With the tickets bought, I began the ten month wait until the concert.
The highly-anticipated day had arrived. We travelled by rail and arrived at the stadium in good time. We ascended the stadium’s plush esculators to the third tier and entered through block 528. The sight that welcomed me was totally mesmerizing. This was my third visit to the stadium but my first with it in concert mode. The football pitch was replaced with a white sheet which represented the floor beneath a slowly-expanding standing crowd. The stands were slowly filling with early revellers. But, by far the most eye-catching concept was the outstanding stage set, and as they always do, Muse had blown it again on production. This massive building was situated at the west end of the stadium. It is a type of triangular prism which could have been taken straight out of Tokyo and designed by some deranged archictect. It is supposedly based on George Orwell’s ’1984′, as was the arena stage set (three imposing, ultilatarian towers), and this is confirmed by the eye positioned at the top. Behind this remarkable stage (which I believe gives U2′s 360 degree ‘Claw’ a run for its money), there are several illuminated spheres distributed across the vacant west stand, providing a correlation with Muse’s magnificent Wembley Stadium shows in 2007. There was a beautiful sunset descending on the stadium and the ambience was incredible as we made our way to our seats. Excitement levels were soaring.
At precisely 17:55, first support act I Am Arrows emerged from inside the stage. I Am Arrows are an indie-pop band from England, formed by ex-Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows in 2009. I had only heard one of their songs prior to the concert so I was not expectant of anything. They played a mere four songs in a rather light-hearted set. Unfortunately the early punters were not stimulated by the performance. Next on at 18:40, were second support act White Lies. They are an alternative/indie rock band from England, formed in 2007 and have already achieved a degree of success. They have won three awards, featured on the NME Awards Tour 2009 and had a headline performance at Radio 1′s Big Weekend. I engaged in their performance without having heard any of their material and I admired their dark yet uplifting style. They played only 6 songs in their early evening set which was better received by a growing crowd. At 19:30, when the sky had darkened, third support act and the one I most eagerly anticipated Biffy Clyro entered the stage. I had wanted to watch this band play live ever since the release of the platinum-selling ‘Only Revolutions’ in 2009 and was exultant when I discovered Biffy Clyro would be reuniting with Muse at Wembley Stadium, as they did in 2007. Biffy Clyro are an alternative/hard rock band from Scotland, formed in 1995 and acheived mainstream success with their breakthrough fourth album ‘Puzzle’. They played an almost identical setlist to that performed at Reading and Leeds Festival 2010 at third slot on the main stage, which was dominated by ‘Only Revolutions’ material. Opening with an explosive ‘That Golden Rule’ where violent mosh pits immediately erupted and continued through to ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’. Other highlights included the stadium-filling anthems that are ‘Bubbles’, ‘Mountains’ and ‘The Captain’, and powerful songs such as ‘God & Satan’ and ‘Many Of Horror’. The eleven songs played formed an impressive set from Scotland’s finest, and the perfect warm-up of what was to follow.
At 20:45 with the sky pitch black, and after a half an hour break allowing people to recover, headline act and the reason why 80,000 had gathered at Wembley Stadium, Muse made their grand entrance. Just before, there was a marching procession of ‘protesters’ holding flags walking around the stage in the typical ‘uprising’ theme, and then the second night of Muse’s colossal two-night residency at Wembley Stadium commenced with the stomping power of ‘Uprising’, the first single from ‘The Resistance‘. An expected choice for the opener and from the first note I knew Muse were going to play their souls out on their final European date of ‘The Resistance Tour’. Matt Bellamy (by far the greatest guitarist of this generation) used a double-necked guitar for this perfect opener which instantly turned the crowd into one pulsating mass. This was followed by the electro-tinged ‘Supermassive Black Hole‘. This popular hit provoked a dancing sensation across the crowd. ‘MK Ultra‘ ensued, a worthy inclusion and a pleasant surprise in the setlist. Another mosh pit anthem with its pummelling guitar riffs, which continued through to the ‘Township Rebellion‘ riff Bellamy tagged along the end. Afterwards, Dom Howard warmly welcomed us. The progressive ‘Map Of The Problematique‘ was next, a crowd favourite not played on the previous night which progressed into the ‘Who Knows Who‘ riff. Muse delved deep into their back catalogue with the next hit ‘Bliss‘. The crowd reaction was beyond words. Nobody was expecting it and everybody relished it. Bellamy surprised us all at the end by pulling of such a high-pitched falsetto at the end. ‘Guiding Light’ followed providing us all with a break from the intensity, but was magical in the stadium setting. The crew deployed confetti over the standing crowd during the guitar and bass riff. Then they played ‘Interlude‘ off Absolution in build up one of the greatest basslines in history as Chris Wolstenholme launched into ‘Hysteria‘. The entire stadium was singing the chorus so loud it would have been heard across a sleeping West London. A ‘Back In Black‘ riff maintained the momentum into the song I wanted to hear most that night. ‘Citizen Erased‘. The crowd definitely appreciated this magnificent masterpiece (it was voted highest in the ‘Choose The Setlist’ polls on the Muse official website). Bellamy vacated the stage momentarily after playing the closing riff, leaving Howard and Wolstenholme to begin ‘Nishe‘. Bellamy returned and the soft piano of ‘United States Of Eurasia’ began, allowing the crowd to hold their mobile phones aloft to create a beautiful effect, before the pulverizing force of the song kicked in with ‘Eurasiaaaa’. An authentic surprise inclusion in the setlist emerged afterwards, with ‘Ruled By Secrecy‘. The volume levels in the stadium dropped as everyone cherished the tranquil and emotional moment. Then arrived Muse’s famous cover version of ‘Feeling Good‘ (which I consider superior to the original and it was voted by NME as the best cover of all time). Bellamy then departed once again as Howard and Wolstenholme headed for the rising platform to play the ‘MK Jam‘ (a drum and bass piece). When Bellamy reappeared, he played a few riffs on his hybrid ‘keytar’ instrument before joining the others on the platform to progress into the dance-style ‘Undisclosed Desires‘. This raised platform (which was equipped with red and blue flashing lights making it resemble a spaceship) advanced away from the stage, deep into the standing crowd in the middle of the stadium. Before the song has concluded, Muse returned to the stage and shifted into the ‘Adagio In G Minor‘ in preparation for ‘Resistance’, another well-performed song in the stadium setting. Afterwards, Bellamy controversially, but very considerately branded us the ‘real fans’, which was a welcome compliment putting in perspective we were the 80,000 who had rushed to apply for tickets for the single date advertised before it sold out, and Muse were obliged to add a second date. Besides, in my opinion, Muse had realised this and treated us with a superior setlist in comparison to the previous night’s. They then began a definite fan favourite, ‘Starlight’, which, as expected, caused rhythmic clapping and passionate singing to echoe across the entire stadium. Muse then picked out a riff from ‘House Of The Rising Sun‘ before entering another fan favourite, ‘Time Is Running Out‘ which, once again, induced more fervent singing. Following the song, Bellamy indicated his true guitar hero by playing two Jimi Hendrix riffs. Then emerged the main set closer, the six-minute ‘Unnatural Selection’, which is without doubt the heaviest material off ‘The Resistance‘, sparking some violent mosh pits. Adrenaline levels were at their highest as Muse escaped from the stage momentarily. When they returned for the first encore, they propelled us all into outer space as a huge UFO hovered over the standing crowd during ‘Exogenesis: Symphony Part I (Overture)‘, and I was staggered to witness this epic orchestral masterpiece being performed live. Once the UFO had reached the centre of the stadium, a female acrobat suspended from it began somersaulting. Then everything went out of control as Muse thundered through the crushingly heavy ‘Stockholm Syndrome‘. Fierce mosh-pits erupted everywhere and everyone on the terraces were jumping with vigour, it was almost as if the stadium was about to collapse under the force. And they were not finished yet, as they exited the stage for another well-earned break. When they re-entered for the second encore, Muse played the electro-heavy ‘Take A Bow‘ as Howard shifted to his synthesizer and Bellamy entered the limelight as he was elevated to the centre of the stadium. Following this, the huge white balloons were unleashed as Muse played another fan favourite, ‘Plug In Baby‘ (which contains one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time). Then, the time had come for the grand finale to this magnificent show. ‘Knights Of Cydonia’. And as the eerie and atmospheric intro ‘Man With A Harmonica’ echoed around the stadium, there was a moment of sadness as everyone acknowledged this was the final show in the UK for a long time. But all was banished as the energy and power of the song brought sheer chaos to the crowd, as Muse signed off a truly breathtaking night.
It was a mind-blowing concert and undoubtedly one of the greatest nights of my life. Muse’s performance was staggeringly close to total perfection. And as I made my way towards the station, I hoped it could all occur again sometime. Unforgettable…