Muse, The O2, London
Conor Maynard, The Dome, Brighton

The world’s loudest three-piece band give a blinding masterclass in how to fill the enormous spaces of rock’s thunderdomes

In the literal sense, as well as the hyperbolic, Muse are exceptional. Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard are the one band who treble-handedly justify the existence of the gaping, Luxembourg-sized thunderdomes in which, regrettably, rock now happens. They're the one band of whom no one but a madman would ever say they wished they could see them playing the intimate indie dives they toured a dozen years ago.

And they're back to tour The 2nd Law, an album whose unembarrassed pomp at times, makes Queen sound like Frank Sidebottom. It's a work that bends the listener to its will, and the new material can easily stand next to, say, the galloping Flashing Blade heroism of "Knights of Cydonia" and the quiet-to-loud, timid-to-terrifying set piece "Time Is Running Out".

In the past, the gold medal for my favourite Muse song has been a photo finish between two: "Supermassive Black Hole", essentially Prince reinventing "Kiss" on Judas Priest's rig; and "Plug-In Baby", on which a Hendrixed run at Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D-minor slams, head-first, into a turbocharged take-off of Air's "Sexy Boy", which in turn collides with a lung-bursting, vengeful chorus. This year, that pair have a challenger. "Survival", the official song of the London Olympics – ELO's "Mr Blue Sky" rewritten by Nietzsche, basically – may still be Muse's finest hour. Tonight, showing a rare glimpse of overt humour, Bellamy dedicates it to Bear Grylls.

It's a show that involves a hi-tech invertible Mayan temple (well, it is 2012) and more lasers than a George Lucas battle scene. Bellamy's stellar presence is rivalled by his bandmates, with bassist Wolstenholme venturing out on to the promontory for his lead vocal on "Save Me" and drummer Howard sporting a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers body suit.

Watching Muse expand and escalate from lunacy to lunacy is a never-ending joy. The day Muse shrivel, get small and do an acoustic tour will surely be the day the rock world itself shrinks to a white dwarf.

Ever since Cliff Richard was sold as the British Elvis Presley, there's been a long tradition of the UK manufacturing home-grown versions of North American stars. Conor Maynard, on that reckoning, may be the British Justin Bieber. Then again, maybe it makes him the 21st-century Cliff Richard.

Either way, someone's done a great job with Conor Maynard. At the start of 2012, the teenager from Brighton won the MTV Brand New award, beating the immeasurably more discussed Lana Del Rey into second place. He did so on the back of a series of YouTube videos in which he covered other people's songs. They supposedly went exponentially viral, with 50 million views before he'd even released anything, gaining him a rabid legion of fans (we're meant to call them "Mayniacs"), piquing the attention of the likes of Ne-Yo. Yep, someone's worked quite a number on this kid. If you're naive, you might even buy the idea that it's Maynard himself.

The perception that you're a viral success becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: everyone wants in. So, debut single "Can't Say No", a reasonable slice of R&B pop reminiscent of early Justin Timberlake, went to No 2, and the album Contrast went one better. Something, though, doesn't add up.

Unlike the upsettingly pretty Bieber, at whose demographic he is being targeted, Maynard is not typical pin-up material. His is more of a geeky, boy-next-door look. He's more Harry Potter than Harry Styles. If Maynard were in Pretty in Pink, he'd be Duckie. In Happy Days, he'd be Potsie. In Gregory's Girl, he'd be Gregory. Nothing wrong with that, per se, but it does make the lust-crazed screams of the Mayniacs, and the pile of confiscated cardboard "We Love You!" signs in the foyer of the Dome, all the more baffling.

So, what else has he got? Awkward and knock-kneed onstage, he's no mover. He can sing, in the sense that there's never a bum note, but there's no tone or character to it. At X Factor he'd be unceremoniously weeded out at Boot Camp.

Maybe it's the songs, then. Maybe not. There's an old Steven Wright joke that goes: "I bought some powdered water, but I didn't know what to add." We've found the answer. Conor Maynard's songs are so wet I need to put my umbrella up indoors. And the sappy acoustic cover of Nicki Minaj's "Starships" fails to fly. If this is the future of the maynstream, things are gonna get arduous.

Next week

Simon follows Public Enemy's Paralympics-inspired revival and presses Alt-J to see what happens

Critic's choice

Swedish electropop heroine Robyn, above, takes a break from touring with Coldplay for a one-off show at London’s Brixton Academy (Thu), with support from Summer Camp. Also, horrorpunk/gothabilly noiseniks The Eighties Matchbox BLine Disaster reunite for Halloween shows at the Concorde 2, Brighton (Tue), and at the Electric Ballroom, London (Wed).

Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there