Muse Come To Exeter University
by Helen Payne
Doings exams in the Great Hall this summer will be tricky. I will forever view the Great Hall as where I saw Muse. As we walked in, the backdrop behind the stage was the cover image of their soon to be released seventh studio album, Drones, all in black, grey and red. The room was heaving with Muse fans of all ages.
First, the Marmozets came on stage and we were greeted to a blonde girl, a topless male guitarist, a hooded drummer and a bassist with a man-bun. Hm. Dubbed by Kerrang as “breathtakingly ambitious”, I did not really know what to expect of them, but I quickly perceived it to sound like a mash of Paramore-turned-screamo. As technically good as they were, it was not my cup of tea. When the front woman, Becca MacIntyre was not screaming in a terrifying fashion down the microphone, she was trying too hard to be Hayley Williams, with the addition of a lot of shoulder bobbing and hair flicks. I hoped Muse would be on soon, and being a massive fan, when they finally came on I was blown away.
Muse walked on to the stage to a brilliant reception - the crowd raring in anticipation for them to begin. We got a full view of frontman Matt Bellamy in a black jacket with red piping (he seems to love those colours), Chris Wolstenholme with his bass guitar that lights up at the neck, and Dominic Howard on drums with unexpectedly jet black hair.
They opened with Psycho, a new track that premiered on YouTube as recently as March 12th. I purposefully had not listened to it until now to get full impact of a track played live. It was difficult, but definitely worth the wait. Heavier than some of their newer stuff, it is nice to see Muse go back to more rocky, instrumental sounds. Next up was Muscle Museum from their 1999 album Showbiz; a track they have not played live since 2007. As a personal favourite it was great to see they were including older tracks for the enjoyment of die-hard fans like myself. Palm muted, eerie verses and the great bass line were built upon until the chorus we were overwhelmed with Howard’s crash cymbal. I’m surprised I’m not deaf after hearing it.
We were treated to the heavy B-Side Futurism followed by Bliss, recognisable in the intro through chords played by Bellamy, not the synth-y arpeggios we’re used to, which was refreshing. During Bliss huge grey inflatable balls were thrown into the crowd and bouncing around the stage – one punctured by Wolstenholme’s bass guitar exploded with confetti, it was magical.
Next up was the lovable Plug In Baby, featuring the riff everyone hears when they think of Muse. It probably got the biggest crowd reaction, with everyone singing along. They played with such infectious enthusiasm throughout it would have been hard to not to sing along. They played hit after hit, Wolstenholme now taking centre stage for his solo introduction to Hysteria, which had everyone’s hands in the air. This was shortly followed by Stockholm Syndrome, which included distorted guitars and the crowd singing “This is the last time I’ll abandon you”. It’s true, no one will ever abandon Matt Bellamy.
A fourth member joined the stage (I assume Morgan Nicholls who tours with the boys) to help with synths for the next few songs, including the catchy riff of Starlight that was to stick in my head for the rest of the weekend. Matt’s brilliant falsetto and Chris’ vocals were superb on Super Massive Black Hole. Plus, during Uprising Bellamy alternated clapping with a raised fist in the air. The crowd copied, and it actually felt like we were starting a revolution. The audience screamed “They will not force us, and they will stop degrading us!” back at the epic band.
There was a good mix of songs taken across all their albums, with the exception of 2012’s The 2nd Law, of which no songs were performed (but I did not mind – it being my least favourite anyway). They left the stage for a few minutes, but everyone knew they’d come back for an encore. The crowd began to chant “We want more!” until they eventually came back on to play Map of the Problematique. It is produced brilliantly and seeing it performed live was enthralling, with Bellamy’s vocals soaring through the Great Hall, and probably all over campus. Apologies to those cramming in the library that night!
We then witnessed Time is Running Out, which opened with a slick synth, and built up with layers of “I won’t let you bury it” until the chorus. The crowd, assuming this to be the last song of the set, jumped around with hands in the air and lots of cheering, enjoying every second. However, little did we know they would play one more: Knights of Cydonia, a classic. The tense, almost Spanish-face-off chords of the intro took me back to playing this on Guitar Hero when I was younger. It was enigmatic and full of energy all the way through, and especially exciting at the end as it was just Matt, Chris, and the crowd singing “We must fight to survive”. Muse performed as you’d expect such a huge and experienced band to play - amazingly. They definitely started an Uprising at Exeter University.