Muse, SECC, Glasgow, Wednesday 24th October


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The Independent Culture

For a band who fully embrace every ounce of intergalactic pomposity sci-fi rock has ever conjured, Muse’s core trio (plus keyboard player) appear somehow smaller than life onstage. Yet playing within their own mini-amphitheatre, a three-quarter-circle of upturned screens, blazing laser lights and metallic gangways which come together in a dual-podium pincer like the spacecraft from Prometheus, their show was never going to be about personality over pyrotechnics.

When singer and guitarist Matt Bellamy utters a weedy “thank you very much, Glasgow,” it’s like watching the footage of Darth Vader speaking with David Prowse’s accent. His cause isn’t helped by the fact that most of the SECC’s crowd, expanded to its full, all-standing capacity for this first UK date of the band’s 2 Law tour, enjoy at best only an obscured view of the figures on stage, such is the angle of elevation and the glare from the moving arrangement of screens dripping from the ceiling like a mechanical stalactite. But then, who goes to a Muse concert expecting intimacy or understatement?

There’s precious little subtlety to be found here, but as an example of the modern arena show’s bombastic spectacle, their set is surely one of the world’s leaders. Crucially the music is also up to the challenge of soundtracking such an epic production, from the urgent grandeur of Supremacy to Supermassive Black Hole’s muscular grind and even the Radiohead-like delicacy of Ruled By Secrecy.

What entertains most in listening – aside from the battering and difficult-to-resist riffs of, for example, Time is Running Out and Plug In Baby – is the constant stream of real or perceived influences professionally smelted down into one Muse-like whole: the Goldfrapp-style electronic bass murmur meets I Want to Break Free soloing of Madness, the techno meets Jean Michel Jarre fusion of Follow Me and Undisclosed Desires’ unlikely recreation of Talk Talk invested with a powerful macho bombast.

Bassist Chris Wolstenholme’s underpowered singing turn on Liquid State reveals Bellamy’s true value to the band, as a powerful vocal performer if not a magnetic frontman, while Uprising and Knights of Cydonia are well-placed together in the encore as the only songs in their set which break the bounds of lyrical neutrality with a certain indistinct anti-authoritarian undercurrent. Yet the second encore of Starlight and Olympic anthem Survival, and the associated bursts of air guitar and drums around the room, reveals them for what they truly are - the world’s biggest-ever edition of Guitar Hero.