Muse

support Jack Garratt
author PP date 08/06/16 venue Forum, Copenhagen, DEN

Muse are one of the few modern examples of a rock band that has become a household headliner at festivals during the last decade to rival the likes of Foo Fighters, Iron Maiden, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the like who've enjoyed that status long before Muse was even a band. They've been a house orchestra at Roskilde Festival, having played there consistently every few years, but have also visited a plethora of other Danish festivals and played a number of arena shows in the process. After a magnificent showing at Roskilde Festival last year where the undersigned praised their show for being the best concert that year, it's no surprise they have sold out Forum so rapidly that an extra date was announced shortly after. But tonight is no ordinary Muse show. Aside from staggeringly good musicianship and near-perfect songwriting ability, they've shifted their focus to making their show one of the most unique experiences you'll encounter in a live setting: a 360-degree arena concert where the audience is free to roam around and view the stage from any direction given its centered position at Forum tonight, coupled with an immersive audiovisual and politically-themed production that rivals anything previously done on Danish soil. More on that shortly, let's talk about the opening act first.

All photos by Stefan Frank thor Straten

Jack Garratt and his arsenal of instruments

Jack Garratt

Tonight's support act is Jack Garratt, a multi-instrumentalist who sings, drums, toys with electronics, and plays the piano - all at the same time. Utilizing a series of effects panels and live-loop techniques, he's able to create complex (electronic) melodies despite being the sole man on the stage, thus demonstrating his undeniable musical talent. That he owns a fantastic, relatively high-pitch voice and plays with visible concentration yet passionate energy at the same time underlines that he is an artist with a capital a, which is probably exactly why Muse picked him for the opening slot. He both sounds and looks like a young Matthew Bellamy when Muse were on the rise, even if the music is far more electronic in comparison. So while you can both see and hear Muse's reasoning in selecting Garratt to open tonight's show given its music-as-an-artform focus, in all honesty, his style is more suitable for Distortion or Tomorrowland than for a rock show. He does bring out the electric guitar for some jamming towards the end, but the feeling at least I'm left with is simply: OK, we get it, you can play a hell of a lot of instruments and have a great voice, but since I'm no electronic music fan, why should I care?

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Muse

So, onto the spectacular Muse performance. As anyone who has followed the band throughout the career knows, they treat music as a definite art form, a channel of expression for frontman Matthew Bellamy that's not to be taken lightly. That approach has manifested in some majestic rock albums that have pushed the genre envelope to an extent that a Muse song today is unmistakably a Muse song. Whether dramatic or theatrical, or brooding and powerful, the songwriting prowess has always displayed an element of artistic inner beauty not found in your average chart-topping rock band (not to even mention other genres). In live performances, we've often seen equally innovative feats, such as the giant, confetti-filled balloons that have become a staple of any Muse show for at least since 2004, but probably longer. Tonight, the band take it a step further with their 360-degree, rotating stage placed right in the middle of Forum, allowing the audience to crowd up on all sides of the stage, much like Metallica did some time ago. But not just that. Fifteen minutes prior to the start of the show, an official announcement over the loudspeakers asks everyone to take their phone and turn off the flash function, as tonight is going to be an audiovisual experience that works best without the disturbance of constantly flashing mobile phone selfies.

Muse - drones targeting people in the crowd

Muse are also known for their subtle, albeit pointed politics if you read their lyrics carefully. Tonight they take it a step further. As we listen to the chilling title track from "Drones" being played from tape, the round video screen above the stage displays key lyrics about being killed by drones, all the while real, actual drones fly freely around the venue, equipped with sharp lights that are randomly 'picking off' people from the audience. Forum is in almost complete silence as Muse demonstrate impeccably how it feels like to live in a constant fear of drones as these large-scale bubbles roam above us leaving us no ability to object to their presence. Let it be stressed: getting 10.000 people to watch in awe in almost total silence is an impressive feat that few bands are able to repeat. Turns out watching in awe is going to be the theme of the rest of the night as well.

Matthew Bellamy rocking out by the crowd

The volume at Forum could perhaps be louder as "Psycho" and "Reapers" demonstrate from the get go, but that doesn't hinder Bellamy for displaying insane technical ability during the tapped leads for the latter track. "Bliss" sounds as brilliant as it does on record regardless of the decibel setting, and "Dead Inside" wakes up the crowd to the first loud sing-along of the night. The show takes an extra artistic turn during this show as giant, half-transparent projector screens are lowered down on both extensions of the stage, displaying video projections of a female cyborg in vivid fashion. Then seemingly out of nowhere, a classical piano appears at the far-end stage extension, where Bellamy spends the next song reminding us of his own multi-instrumentalist talent. The projector screens are lowered down again, this time showing off an immense technological feat of having a live-processed puppetmaster animation tracking every single movement of Bellamy and Chris Wolstenholme as they walk across the stage in front of them. To achieve that you need an incredibly well-developed video tracking system; needless to say it is state-of-the-art and one of the most impressive things I've seen in a live show. Muse certainly weren't kidding about the immersive audiovisual experience - this is what a rock show looks like when it is standing on even footing with visual arts.

Muse's Matthew Bellamy showing off his fretwork

Despite all the immersive extras, let's not forget about the songs. "Supermassive Black Hole" sounds absolutely huge tonight with Forum's floodlights illuminating the entire crowd during a thunderous "Black holes and expectaaaaations" sing-along moment. This is all happening while Muse's trademark white balloons are in action above the crowd - which doesn't work particularly well in a circular stage venue as the balloons keep going into the restricted areas and out of reach for the crowd, but still. It's a magnificent moment at a show which feels like it has nothing else than magnificent moments stringed together one after another. That is if you exclude the slightly boring "Madness" that's arguably the weakest Muse song to date. But after words from John F. Kennedy's infamous military-industrial complex speech are projected on the video screens during "[JFK]", the slight lull is quickly forgotten as the band launch into a series of amazing songs with "Stockholm Syndrome", "Time Is Running Out" leading the charge and "Uprising" and "The Globalist" rounding it off before "Drones" returns the venue into a similarly spellbound state as it was during the intro. Why you ask? Well, there is an absolutely enormous alien ship-looking drone/plane floating around the stage alongside the original drones from earlier on. How that thing even flies is a mystery to most, but the effect is obvious: to remind us that music can also be used as a vessel of spreading awareness.

Muse

Even more transparent screens are lowered down now to an extent that they cover the entire stage and its extensions on both sides. The room is darkened, and glimmering stars fill your entire view in one crazy audiovisual spectacle, unlike anything you've seen at a concert before. When that's topped off with new album highlight "Mercy" and a storm of confetti flying across the sky, it's safe to say Muse are in top form once again. "Knights Of Cydonia" rounds the night off with yet another modern classic, fortifying that Muse are one of the most formidable rock bands in 2016. Tonight's show - being a weekday show and all - may not have incited a similar feeling of pure euphoria as their Orange Stage show last year, but it was definitely a spectacle unmatched in the live music scene. Most, if not all, left the venue tonight with thoughts along the lines of "I don't think I've ever seen anything like that before".

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Setlist:

  • 1. Drones
  • 2. Psycho
  • 3. Reapers
  • 4. Bliss
  • 5. Dead Inside
  • 6. Citizen Erased
  • 7. The 2nd Law: Isolated System
  • 8. The Handler
  • 9. Resistance
  • 10. Supermassive Black Hole
  • 11. Prelude
  • 12. Starlight
  • 13. Munich Jam
  • 14. Madness
  • 15. [JFK]
  • 16. Stockholm Syndrome
  • 17. Time Is Running Out
  • 18. Uprising
  • 19. The Globalist
  • 20. Drones (Reprise)
  • --Encore--
  • 21. Take a Bow
  • 22. Mercy
  • 23. Knights of Cydonia

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