Muse at AO Arena: fire, flare, confetti and a giant on-stage guest top off pulsating Manchester performance

Muse rocked the AO Arena to its core on Friday night, and we were there to experience it all
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For almost 30 years, Muse have been one of those bands who you need to experience live to fully understand. Up until Friday, watching a gig of theirs is not something I’d had the pleasure of doing, but it was certainly worth the wait. 

In front of a packed AO Arena, Muse brought their ‘Will of the People’ tour to Manchester and treated the thousands to a lengthy set for the ages. For nearly two hours, we were taken on a journey through what it means to experience Muse music, and a band who have cemented their place in the musical history books showed just why they are rightly there. 

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The band, who are of course Matt Bellamy on lead vocals, guitar and keyboard, drummer Dominic Howard and bassist Chris Wolstenholme, burst onto the Manchester stage to the title track of their latest album. Sporting unusually shaped golden face masks, they introduced themselves with the flare and presence of a band who are just very good at what they do. 

‘Psycho’ is one of the more instantly recognisable Muse tracks, and with the crowd still bouncing from the opening, it was unleashed in a way which kept the party going. The stage setup for Muse saw a walkway stretch deep into the crowd, and throughout the night Bellamy and to a lesser extent Wolstenholme took the opportunity to get literally in the middle of the arena floor. It was a running theme, and something I always believe can help a band increase its interaction and showmanship when on stage. 

Muse’s stage set up in general was elaborate to say the least. A huge mechanical bull loomed over the band as they performed, and this came after an equally large figure with one of the infamous masks held the spot. Along with the fire, confetti and mesmerising light show it was clear Muse had gone all out on this aspect of the night.   

Muse at AO ArenaMuse at AO Arena
Muse at AO Arena

The theme of ‘Will Of The People’ is going up against oppression, and an interlude with a video showed a figure with a sign with these words written on being removed by several of the bull-like people. This police state example was followed by a rousing rendition of ‘Compliance’ which is effectively about what would happen should none of us stand up and fight anymore. The message is powerful, and the song with thousands of fans joining in was a sight to behold.

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The setlist in Manchester had at least a little bit of something from each album Muse have ever created. ‘You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween’ is a spooky seasonal tune with a piano intro from Bellamy which feels like something from a classic horror film. The live performance of this was a personal favourite and it's perhaps fitting for it to be played as I write this in October, the traditional start of ‘spooky season’. 

The back end of the set saw Muse treat the Manchester crowd to some of their most iconic tunes. The final track before the encore was ‘Starlight’, a song which was released on the 2006 album ‘Black Holes and Revelations’. In 17 years, the track has lost little if any of its charm and as it is on the softer side of Muse’s catalogue, it was positioned well in the set to serenade the crowd just before the beginning of the end. 

Muse are monsters of the musical game, teaching fans old and new fresh lessons as to why they’ve stayed at the top of their game for decades. The musical angle may change, but the core principles of this band from Devon have not- and a Friday night in Manchester was a checklist of what a band needs to be successful. 

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