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MUSE O2 Arena, London 12 November  2009

Muse, photo by Lee Millward

To those fans that feel that Muse have sold out their alt-rock roots, should perhaps be reminded of the title of the Tiny Teignmouth Trio's debut.

Make no mistake, their current tour is unashamedly all about the Biz of Show. Son of a Tornado, Matt Bellamy and his band of rural renegades certainly blew up a veritable storm.

Yes, the set-list could have been more equally balanced between old and new and there could've been more spontaneity in the performance, but this wasn't a gig down the Dog and Duck, this was a cosmic event.

Muse, photo by Lee Millward

Levitating platforms for each band member? Check. Revolving drum kit? Check. Concept-heavy sci-fi visuals ? Check. Lasers set to stun ? Aye Aye Capt'n.

It was live Matt, but not as we normally know it. This would be supermassive. Having survived the near vertical ascent to my seat in the very upper level of the O2 Arena, I strapped myself into my vertiginous seat and waited for lift off.

Having got intimate with their latest CD, I knew that  Resistance would be futile. The extended intro tape built the atmosphere and the mysterious three towers that dominated the centre of stage were illuminated with interleaved images of faceless Orwellian marching figures.

Muse, photo by Lee Millward

Then in an exposition of sight and sound, each tower unfurled its shroud to reveal each band member on a raised platform as the sonic assault commenced.

'We will be victorious' went the chorus of the opening song, and who were to argue as they segued straight into the superb title track of the latest CD, even if it does sound like a mad mash-up of Erasure's 'A Little Respect' and Queen's 'We are the champions' ?

Muse, photo by Lee Millward

The great thing about Muse is that you forgive them wearing their influences on the sleeves of their space suits. It's all so gloriously overblown and delivered with extreme confidence and verve, you could never accuse them of pastiche. Panache, yes.

'New born' gets an early outing and is the first of two tracks played tonight from 'Origin of Symmetry' which for many is the blueprint Muse album.

Muse, photo by Lee Millward

It was therefore slightly disappointing that the following three tracks reverted to the more mainstream glam funky Muse of the last two albums. That being said, great crowd-pleasing stuff that had even we mountaineers of the upper tiers up on our feet.

By this point in the proceedings, they certainly didn't have to sing for absolution to get the audience feeling good, although that would've been nice. Muse's show-tune is hardly my favourite symmetrical song, but for an arena gig it had great appeal for average Joe and Mo Punter, got a great response and helped notched the atmosphere up another peg.

Muse, photo by Lee Millward

Curiously, FG was substituted for fan-boy favourite 'Cave' in the following night's show, indicating that Muse are still happy to cherry pick from their first two platters. The inevitable 'Plug in Baby' and 'Time is Running out' (together with new cut 'Unnatural selection') closed the main set on a high-note, or in Matt Belamy's case loads of high notes, backed by a massed chorus imploring more, more, more. Magnifico-o-o-o.

Muse, photo by Lee Millward

Returning to the stage with the first part of their record-company-worrying three part symphony seemed like a strange choice, but in context it worked well as a prelude to an arena-melting 'Stockholm Syndrome' that took no hostages.

Muse are big enough to not need to blow their own trumpet, but they still brought a great show to a fitting end with the horn-somely bonkers Knights of Cydonia.

Better still, they're coming back next year for at least one date at Starbase Wembley. Don't miss.

Set-list (albums in brackets)

We are the universe (intro music) Uprising (R) Resistance (R) New Born (OOS) Map of the Problematique (BHAR) Guiding Light (R) Supermassive Black Hole (BHAR) Interlude + Hysteria (A) Nishe + United States of Eurasia (R) Feeling Good (OOS) Unintended (SB) Helsinki Jam + Undisclosed Desires (R) Starlight (BHAR) Plug In Baby (OOS) Time Is Running Out (A) Unnatural Selection (R) Exogenesis: Symphony, Part 1: Overture (R) Stockholm Syndrome (A) Man with harmonica Knights of Cydonia (BHAR) NOTE: very similar set-list on Fri 13/11/09, with the following changes Unintended (SB) or Feeling good (OOS): not played Cave (SB) and MK Ultra (R): added.

Review by Andy Rawll

Photos by Lee Millward

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