Muse

support Des Rocs
author PP date 08/09/19 venue Royal Arena, Copenhagen, DEN

When a ticket costs 650 DKK on pre-sale to a rock show, you are pretty much guaranteed a spectacular stage show for the ages. That said, such a steep face value will undoubtedly exclude some folks from attending, which is probably why Royal Arena is nowhere near sold out tonight, even though Muse is one of the most popular rock bands around right now. The upper-central rafters are closed, and there's plenty of seats in between the other sections, yet still, a good 10 to 12 thousand people have shown up for a Sunday evening bash. Just enough for a great arena show, then, where Des Rocs has received the honor of warming up the crowd.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Bruse thor Straten

Des Rocs

Des Rocs

And warm up the crowd they do. Initially a weird pick for such a high-profile opening, it quickly becomes clear why Muse has picked the relatively unknown Des Rocs to open tonight's festivities. For starters, their experimental take on rock'n'roll ranges from Wolfmother style riffing to flirting with pop music a lá Five, with a few nods down the Led Zeppelin and Guns'N'Roses lane as well. That is, huge riffs suitable for arenas, but best of all, the band's enigmatic frontman Danny Rocco (of pop duo Secret Weapons) is full of all kinds of charisma to woo the crowd early on. Whether it's big gestures and hand waves while riffing, or kicking up legs in folk-rock style together with his bassist, it quickly becomes clear that this is show business. During the forty minutes of their set, they showcase all sorts of tricks that spice up their otherwise nondescript rock'n'roll expression enough to feel like it was made for the arenas. A surprisingly enjoyable opener, with some artistic depth that makes it a suitable fit for a Muse opener.

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Muse

Muse is known for using creative means to channel their views through visual effects at their live shows. For instance, the "Drones" tour features explicit drones with lasers occasionally sniping at people to make a political point. They've never been shy about such commentary, yet tonight's performance is one of more existential, or perhaps philosophical in its nature. It's themes of humans vs robots, biology vs machines, algorithms vs liberty, and much more flowing through various visual constructs ranging from performance arts to clever videos and lighting, not to even mention the grand finalé which we'll talk about later.

Muse

Tonight, the band starts with the 'Alternate Reality' version of "Algorithm", a futuristic song that sees robotic trumpeters walking across wearing giant LED screens in front of their faces that rhythmically adjust to the music. Matthew Bellamy then arises from the bottom of the catwalk wearing LED-glasses that even Bono would be proud of to rip directly into the riffs of "Pressure" whilst the trumpeters weirdly dance around him. For "Psycho", the extras disappear momentarily and our attention turns to the rounded screen that wraps the stage, where we see the 'Drill Sergeant' we remember from the "Drones" album shouting at us.

The barrage of new material continues with "Break It To Me", which features some kind of weird astronauts floating up-and-down in front of the video screen, creating ripple effects on the screen in a technologically advanced display of what is possible today that just a few years ago would not have been. The crowd has mostly stayed silent, observing everything and sending muted applauds after the songs, so it is a rather stark contrast when the sing-alongs erupt for "Uprising" from the 2009 album "Resistance". Here, the community-sing along aspect of Muse arena concerts really comes to its own, which is perhaps also why the band opts to not have too much other clutter on the background. The extras return for "Propaganda", this time wearing black spandex suits and portable smoke cannons shooting these across the crowd.

Muse

The new album is indeed very different, and some might say not as solid as much of their other output (ignoring "The 2nd Law"), so perhaps the band thought they need to keep us entertained. After all, we're six songs into the set and we've already heard 4 songs off the new album, one from its predecessor, and only one comparatively older song. So until this point, the experience is a mixed bag of interesting visual arts but not much of a spectacle from a musical perspective. That all changes with old classic "Plug In Baby", where the crowd finally wakes up properly with the seats rising to stand up and thunderous sing-alongs filling the venue. Objectively speaking, it is songs like "Plug In Baby" that everyone names as their Muse favorites, and not the experimental dub-step material from "The 2nd Law" or the futuristic stuff from last year's "Simulation Theory".

As such, it is not surprising to hear similar sing-alongs for "Supermassive Black Hole", whilst "The Dark Side" and "Thought Contagion" are mostly quieter affairs. "Hysteria" is another example of a brilliant rock song, whereas "The 2nd Law: Unsustainable" is doesn't catch onto the Royal Arena crowd in any memorable manner. Of course, Matthew Bellamy's vocals are incredible as usual, and the sound is remarkably solid (if somewhat quiet in places) all the way through, and the lasers and other light effects have kept us entertained. So to this point, the concert is already well-executed, worthy of a high rating on our critical scale.

Muse

But it is no secret that the second half is what elevates this from a solid experience to an awe-inspiring one. We start with "Dig Down" in its 'Acoustic Gospel' version played in a minimalistic format in the middle of the catwalk, before "Madness" (one of the few great songs off "The 2nd Law") showcases yet another technological display with lyrics of the song printed in big-text on Matthew Bellamy's new pair of LED-sunglasses, projected to the video screen. The crowd loves this quirky feat, which is the perfect time to inject "Mercy" into the mix with its sheer display of Bellamy's vocal prowess. What's more, he does it all while jumping into the front rows around the catwalk, high-fiving people, giving us chills over how beautiful it all is before a confetti storm encompasses the venue in a spectacularly beautiful colours thanks to some ample lighting applied right then.

The highlights don't stop there: "The Time Is Running Out" takes us back to 2003 showcasing the raw rock bliss this band emerged from, before "Houston Jam" showcases a frankly unbelievable three-dimensional, rotating screen setup that feels so real it's almost as if it was there and not on the screen. While we're busy discussing just how on earth that was possible, the band flows straight into "Take A Bow", arguably one of the most majestic Muse songs, which features an astonishing crescendo mixed with a shockingly aggressive laser show simultaneously. The back chills are strong with this one, and "Starlight" continues exactly from where that picks off.

Muse

Just as we thought we had seen all the good stuff, Muse pulls an ace out of their sleeves in the most spectacular feat I've ever seen anyone pull off live (and I've seen Iron Maiden with an actual Spitfire warplane flying on stage). From somewhere underneath the stage, a ridiculously big robot claws its way to the stage and rises far above it. An actual, physical robot that's as wide as the stage and at least 20 meters tall, what the actual fuck? It looks so realistic and frightening that the roar of the crowd is almost deafening when it's revealed. It's an absolutely massive moment that goes down in concert history, especially when it's surrounded by a medley of old songs and finally, "Knights Of Cydonia" which features the classic Muse black/white balloons deployed onto the crowd.

Basically, if the show started out slow, it finished with a meteoric blast of epic proportions. Great songs, fantastic singing by Bellamy, incredible production spectacles and technological advances. I didn't even mention the smaller robots nor the Arcade machine on stage that was symbolically unplugged in a particularly artistic moment, or more of the performing arts dancers wearing LED screens as their faces throughout the show. In the end, a show of this kind is a transcending experience where Muse takes us on a philosophical journey, challenging our perceptions of technology through clever audiovisuals and other special effects.

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Setlist:

  • 1. Algorithm (Alternate Reality Version)
  • 2. Pressure.
  • 3. Psycho
  • 4. Break It To Me
  • 5. Uprising
  • 6. Propaganda
  • 7. Plug In Baby
  • 8. Pray (High Valyrian)
  • 9. The Dark Side
  • 10. Supermassive Black Hole
  • 11. Thought Contagion
  • 12. Interlude
  • 13. Hysteria
  • 14. The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
  • 15. Dig Down
  • 16. Madness
  • 17. Mercy
  • 18. Time Is Running Out
  • 19. Houston Jam
  • 20. Take A Bow
  • 21. Prelude
  • 22. Starlight
  • 23. Algorithm
  • 24. Stockholm Syndrome / Assassin / Reapers / The Handler / New Born
  • 25. Knights Of Cydonia

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