Muse at Manchester’s AO Arena review – the band at their playful best

In a show packed with camp and excess, playing to Manchester’s packed-out AO Arena, Muse were in the mood for fun. “We’re going to take you back 20 years to Absolution days,” Bellamy told the 21,000-strong crowd, kicking off with Will Of The People and Hysteria. It was more or less the only time he spoke all night. If you want to get to know the band, forget it. Few words passed Bellamy’s lips as ever. I’ve seen Muse many times now. And there was something different about last night’s show –  the band were at their playful best. 

With a theme of defiance, distrust and anti-establishment, drawn directly from the punchy lyrics to Uprising, they whipped the engaged crowd into a frenzy with ear-splitting riffs, eye-watering pyrotechnics and high drama. 

The sound quality improved as the night went on, and crystal clear Compliance was a highlight, along with Time Is Running Out. I watched on as the obligatory mosh pits swarmed and circled below. 

When it came to staging, it was a case of rock concert 101. And then some. With no expense spared, Muse threw everything at it: there were streamers, there was confetti, there was falling snow (or dust? Foam? I couldn’t tell).

There was fire, too, and lots of it. At regular intervals we were slow-roasted by extravagant pillars of fire bursting from the stage. 

Not content with smashing up one guitar, Bellamy threw his strings across the stage thrice. An age old trick, but one lapped up by fans nevertheless. 

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Amid the pomp there were self indulgent moments aplenty. Notably Bellamy playing a song in its entirety while hidden under the stage. There were also too many interludes, with bad graphics of mask-wearing, hooded figures unnecessarily lengthening the set. 

But bangers Madness, Supermassive Black Hole, and Plug In Baby brought the energy back up whenever the tempo lapsed a little. 

A lesson in rock and excess, time and time again Muse show the rest how it’s done. And last night was no exception. They may not rip up the rule book or change the formula, but if it’s a good time that you want, the band serves it up in spades. 

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