Muse - Manchester MEN Arena - 10.11.06

When Muse headlined the Carling Weekender it set the men apart from the boys as they showed the miserable curmudgeons The Arctic Monkeys exactly what they were made of. Of course the rest of the media by this point had already decided that the show was to be a repeat of the the NME Tour earlier in the year where the band had reportedly blew Maximo Park off stage (stories we personally couldn't find an ounce of truth in), but deep down everybody knew that the most ambitious epic rock band Britain has seen in years were going to walk away victorious.

That said Muse aren't naturally a Festival band and are one of the few bands in the world that's natural home is these cavernous airhangers we call arena's. From when we first caught them in the early days playing small acoustic set in independent records shops such as Preston's Action Record we knew there was something special, those prog ambitions which were matched by influences in Russian folk music and Eastern music scales lead for something much more interesting than the Radiohead comparisons at the time. Each successive show since then has become every bit more epic with a separate truck needed for Matt Bellamy's ever growing love for guitar effect pedals. While the White Stripes were trying to par it down and keep the blues real, Bellamy was going the other trying to make the music as magical as ever.

With only one song from debut album "Showbiz", "Muscle Museum", it shows how far they travelled musically in recent years. The bulk of tonight's set is taken from recent album "Black Holes and Revelations" and like they've done before the focus of Muse's set isn't a massive backdrop or stage set-up but an inventive use of mini-cams which pick up every single piano motif or intricate riff. It's simple but has worked since they ramped up their shows to the theatre's on their second album. Despite their intense introspection Muse are a thoroughly enjoyable experience as they take liberally from the likes of "Hysteria", "Plug In Baby", Supermassive Black Hole" and "Stockholm Syndrome".

During the encore they really showcase 3 songs that would leave most bands for dead. "Starlight" in its elegiac pop glory is probably the most overtly pop moment of their career is followed by "New Born" with it's instantly recognizable intro and then "Knights Of Cydonia", a song title and song that even Porcupine Tree or Pink Floyd would throwaway as being so utterly pretentious.

With the exception of Rammstein, Muse are probably the best live band in the entire history of rock'n'roll!!

Alex McCann
Photos: Kirsty Umback


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