ROCK ICONS MUSE KICK OFF SIMULATION THEORY ERA WITH SOLD OUT CHARITY SHOW AT LONDON’S ROYAL ALBERT HALL
Welcome back, Muse. It’s been a short while since Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dom Howard were last playing headline shows in the UK – aside from topping the bill at Reading and Leeds Festivals and playing an intimate by-request gig at London’s O2 Shepherds Bush Empire last August, the arena run in support of Drones back in early 2016 was the last time Muse were active on the UK touring scene. With new music though (their eighth studio album Simulation Theory was recently released) comes new shows, and to start off yet another new era in Muse’s creative tapestry there is perhaps no venue more fitting than Kensington’s Royal Albert Hall, one of the London’s grandest and most opulent live spaces.
The 5,200 capacity gig predictably sold out immediately upon going on sale, with ticket revenues benefiting The Prince’s Trust: Bellamy later announced during the show that over half a million pounds had been raised for the charity. On the note of tickets – which weren’t cheap, ranging from £60 for the upper gallery to an eye-popping £165 for the grand box seats – one curious occurrence from the audience did leave a mark on the entire show. Fans in the front row held up signs during ‘Uprising’, protesting the band offering premium ‘enhanced experience’ tickets for the wider Simulation Theory tour that kicks off next year. Whether it was acknowledged by Muse is a mystery, but it was unusual and somewhat fitting to see an overtly partisan song be upstaged by dissent from the fanbase.
The mean task of opening up for the chasmic rock trio fell down to Doncaster alternative troubadour Dominic Harrison, better known as Yungblud. His genre-bending style was a fine fit on the bill, as he energetically made full use of the modest size of the Royal Albert Hall’s stage.
To a large roar the band rolled out on stage just before 8:45 pm, opening up the 90 minutes set with Simulation Theory opener ‘Algorithm’, the moody synthesizers cutting through the anticipation felt by those present. The setlist was all-encompassing of Muse’s discography, with the trio playing at least one song from each of their eight studio albums and diving into some fan favorites with the airing of ‘Showbiz’ for just the seventh time since 2006. Muse looked equally as comfortable playing tunes from the earliest depths of their recorded history as they did their more recent hits, the musicianship on display between the three members showing why millions of fans worldwide have embraced this band over the past twenty years.
The set also threw some surprises aside from ‘Showbiz’ – the performance of their dubstep/noise guitar genre meltdown ‘The 2nd Law: Unsustainable’ featured Bellamy singing the middle vocals for apparently, the first time ever. The night also saw the debut of the much talked about medley to conclude the main set, which has been an eager talking point amongst Muse fans since it was first hinted at in interviews. And it did not prove to be a disappointment. Introduced by Bellamy as ‘fifteen minutes of metal’, Muse raced their way through shortened versions of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, ‘Reapers’, ‘The Handler’, ‘Dead Star’ and ‘New Born’, all while managing to snippet ‘Assassin’, ‘Micro Cuts’ and ‘Ashamed’ in the process. It sounded just as insane as it reads, and if they don’t carry this over into the stadium shows it’ll be a crying shame.
Whilst the main set had its startling moments, the encore was a far more stable experience – the Black Holes and Revelations hits ‘Starlight’ and ‘Knights of Cydonia’ (complete with the traditional harmonica intro’) ended the evening before the band departed the stage with a fit of feedback and the absolute adoration of everyone in the seats and on the floor. Whilst Muse is to a degree a bank-breaking exercise to see live nowadays, when they put on a show as defined and bombastic as this it’s hard not to agree that they are worth every penny.
If you missed out on tickets for this intimate show, then you need not worry – Muse is taking the Simulation Theory tour globally for the vast majority of 2019, which includes headline stadium shows in London, Manchester, and Bristol.