I challenge somebody to walk into Wembley Stadium and not wee themselves.
It sounds childish, but the sheer scale of this magnificent structure
alone is enough to burst ones bladder, let alone the thought that the
greatest band in the world have sold it out. And as the last droplets
of urine trickled down my inner thigh and eventually into the side of
my converse, we'd walked down onto the pitch area, and made it into the
inner circle. Slightly confusing I'll admit, given there were thousands
of people in the queue outside ahead of us, and we were comfortably stood
quite near the front. Then it rained. Really rained. Really really rained.
And to match, I got really really wet. Bugger.
The stage was at one end of the pitch, and the set consisted of huge satellite
dishes, massive inflatable balls, and some other crazy structures that
were clearly poorly designed, as roadies hurried to fling all the rainwater
out that had collected in them. And as this happened, the first band,
Rodriga Y Gabriella came on. And I use the term band lightly, as they
were in fact just two Mexicans who came and sat down with acoustic guitars.
I'd listened to their album prior to attending the gig, so I knew what
to expect; I'm just not sure everyone else did. They took to playing latin/flamenco
acoustic instrumentals, with Gabriella providing the backing and rhythm,
and Rodriga playing the top line. As Rodriga ran his way along his fretboard
at twice the speed of sound, Gabriella was keeping rhythm with possibly
the craziest and most impressive strumming technique in the history of
time. It's hard to explain, but basically without a pick she used her
entire hand to strum, and often ran her fingers off of the strings to
rattle on her guitar case, as did Rodriga. They'd squeeze in famous metal
riffs like Metalica, Rage Against The Machine and Deep Purple, before
resorting back to their own material, and interestingly, it always seemed
to be the same riff. But it was bloody good and even though they did seem
quite out of place at a Wembley Muse gig, despite the fact their music
wasn't everyone's cup of tea, you just can't deny raw talent, and the
crowd loved it. Ending with a guitar duel between the pair, Rodriga and
Gabriella had shown tremendous ability; good form!
Zane Lowe was compering, and even if his constant calls for us to put
our hands in the air got a little tiring, the fact he's an amazing DJ
and was playing brilliant indie music, meant that the time between bands
flew by, and it wasn't long before The Dirty Pretty Things were ready
to come on.
The foursome stumbled onto the stage, and took to playing various numbers
off of their album Waterloo To Anywhere. The topless drummer in green
tracksuit bottoms contrasted with the other three in v-neck tops and Carl
Barrat with some fabric nonsense tied around his waist. Unfortunately,
the sound wasn't up to scratch yet, and the guy at the mixing desk should
have been on the verge of being fired. I could only really hear one guitar,
and no bass whatsoever. (In contrast, friends who had seating tickets
at the rear of the stadium commented all they could hear was bass.) You
can blame not understanding what Carl was saying on the bad sound, but
I'd blame alcohol instead. And it's hard to try and defend the Dirty Pretty
Things front man regarding that statement, when a roadie brings on a bottle
of Jamesons whiskey for him to occasionally gulp from. Predictable favourites
were "Deadwood" and "You Fucking Love It." The floppy-fringed
second guitarist kept me amused in the sense that his hairstyle was reminiscent
of Howard Moon's hairstyle when he dresses as a goth during the Mighty
Boosh episode "Nanegeddon," and when he picked up a trumpet,
we all knew what was coming. The introduction to their most famous song
"Bang Bang You're Dead" started off everyone cheering and singing
along, however it wasn't long before the best bit of the set was over,
and they were leaving the stage. Perhaps if the sound was better, I'd
have been more impressed by the band, who also happened to disappoint
during their performance at Reading Festival 2006.
Next up were the Streets, and I can't say I was looking forward to it.
Another look back to Reading 2006 reminded me of their unimpressive set
and a wasted hour that could have been given to a better band. Strangely
enough, one of the two bands ahead of them that day, were Muse. Dirty
Pretty Things played that day too. Oo eck. Muse could have chosen two
better bands from that say surely? I mean, where are Arctic Monkeys, Feeder,
Wolfmother or Flogging Molly? Wielding bright orange instruments, the
Streets started with "Prangin." The bass player looked like
he'd been freshly picked from a reggae band and had been smoking marijuana
previous to the set, the drummer pretty non-descript, and the keyboardist
trying his best to look hard, when everyone knew he only had to press
three keys per song. Meanwhile Mike Skinner, the face of the Streets,
and a second vocalist (whose name I don't know, and is apparently hidden
on the internet everywhere) pranced around the stage. Often, Skinner would
completely break out of rapping a verse to just talk to the crowd; slightly
confusing if you haven't heard the song and it takes you a while to latch
on. He kept on commenting that "there isn't much time left"
and after the third or fourth time, I'd just clocked on to what was coming.
I was expecting a gag with reference to a Muse song, but instead both
vocalists knelt down centre stage and started chanting the chorus to "Time
Is Running Out." I received a text from my twelve year old brother
up in the stalls; he wasn't impressed. It was quite funny though. Skinner
seems to have some obsession with making people jump. Our instructions
were that when Johnny (the drummer) sits down, we all have to jump. Admittedly,
they chose the most jumpable songs to make us jump to, but still, a calm
crowd was soon turned into a manic crush, and even those unwilling to
join in with such bouncy activities, ended up doing so regardless, as
they found themselves trapped between two people who were jumping. Anyway,
this jumping request came about a good three or four times throughout
the performance. They played through their best tracks, including "Dry
Your Eyes," "Blinded By The Light,""Don't Mug Yourself,"
"When You Wasn't Famous" and "Never Went To Church."
I was slightly annoyed with myself to be finding the Streets quite entertaining,
but such is life. I'm quite sure they broke into Smile by Lily Allen at
some point, but then again I might have made that up. Considering that
prior to the set lots of the crowd were booing upon hearing the word Streets,
as the group finished their final song "Fit But You Know It"
and some messy noisy outro, everyone was cheering. So, despite how much
they get on your tits, they're quite entertaining. Not bad for a guy who
used to work in fast food restaurants, is it.
For the next half an hour or so, for the first time in history, nearly
a hundred thousand people were simultaneously on the verge of climax.
And then, it was time.
Everybody eagerly stood up on tiptoes to look onto the stage as Muse came
on, but as the huge satellite dishes tilted down to point to the centre
of the pitch, we realised we were facing the wrong way. A large podium
in the centre, which I had presumed would have been approached by Bellamy
mid-song or before the guitar riff of New Born, for example, was in fact
surrounded by sparks and smoke. And out of the fuzzy mayhem walked the
three giants of rock themselves, amid cheers and screams. You could see
the grin on Dom's face that it was the best day of his life, and Matt's
walk just said it all. "We know we're awesome. You know we're awesome.
Let's fucking rock."
Opening with "Knights Of Cydonia," the closing track off of
their latest album, the crowd were instantly captivated and bobbing manically
as the drum beat kicked in, drowning out Matt's guitar with their own
vocal melodic contributions. The fading noise from this epic ran into
"Hysteria," as Chris lead the song. Not many people realise
the awesome intro bass riff actually runs through just about the entire
song. His fingers must be made of perspex. It's the only logical explanation.
The huge black back-drop behind the band had turned into a massive screen,
and the mind-blowing music was accompanied with some wow-factor visuals,
which were all in sync with the audio. And as the back-drop filled with
robots, "Super-Massive Black Hole" started, followed by my personal
BHAR favourite, "Map Of The Problematique." Matt was dressed
in a red suit and looked fantastic strutting around to every corner of
walkable stage space, before welcoming a trumpet player to the stage,
and it was clear that "City Of Delusion" was coming. The visuals
behind showed some satellite dishes firing out random bolts of lightening
and destroying a city, and the dishes on stage started shining strong
beams out into the sky. Sadly, it wasn't quite dark enough to appreciate
it fully, but I was thankful the stadium didn't collapse around me. All
the sound issues encountered by earlier bands had been overcome and Muse's
set was flawless in both sound and performance. When "Butterflies
and Hurricanes" began, everyone was just waiting for the piano solo
in the middle of the song. It's impressive enough to hear it on an album,
but to hear it live and watch it on the biggest screen you've ever seen
in your life; incredible. Next up, "Citizen Erased," and my
God what a sexual song that is. The crunchy intro that instantly rocks
your socks and the sections that glide from heavy to gentle, make this
an epic tune and everyone was having a ball. After this, the piano was
brought forward to a more prominent position on the stage, and "Hoodoo"
preceded "Feeling Good" and a crowd favourite "Sunburn,"
the first track off of their first album Showbiz. A whining bottle-neck
fiddle from Bellamy signalled the start to "Invincible," which
ran into "Starlight;" every man and his dog clapping along to
the snare beat. What followed was a random instrumental, recently dubbed
as "Man of Mystery" so I'm guessing it was a cover or some sort
(like when they covered Lightening Bolt's "Dracula Mountain"
at Earl's Court in 2004,) but I certainly didn't recognise it and took
it as one of their little riffy-jam-shindigs. Back to the classics, and
"Time Is Running Out" (which was better than the Streets rendition
I might add) was played before the fantastic "New Born." Between
the piano intro and main riff, Matt stood centre stage with one hand held
high begging for screams and cheers from the crowd. Before lowering his
right hand and breaking out the sound we had all been waiting for. Immense.
In between this song and the encore, I had enough time to dart out and
grab a drink. (And I note that I was unimpressed by the apparent lack
of free water and no cold taps in the toilets!)
As I walked back into the stadium, night had fallen. "Soldier's Poem"
had just started, and I gazed wide-eyed up into the stalls. Tens of thousands
of people with lighters and mobile phone screens alight, this was a truly
beautiful sight. I settled at the edge of the inner circle for a considerably
more laid back part of the show, and it was only towards the end of the
song, I realised a second drum kit had been placed right out on one side
of the stage, and Dom was in fact playing from there. Next, following
the acoustic feel yet completely unexpected, came "Unintended."
Arguably one of the most beautiful songs ever to be written, and just
a real gem for this gig. When "Blackout" started, another unexpected
song, two enormous glowing balls appeared from the back of the stage,
and floated out over the crowd, controlled and tethered to stewards. "What's
so amazing about that?" I hear you cry. And the answer is, the acrobats
hanging beneath each of them. Flipping and cartwheeling in the air as
the balls gently bobbed up and down. For the next song, the acrobats had
to leave. These graceful movements were not quite appropriate for the
pant-burstingly amazing energy of "Plug In Baby," that's for
sure. As soon as Matt switches on the fuzz pedal and starts mucking around
with distorted squeaks, you can bet your bottom dollar it's leading to
this classic tune. I wouldn't be surprised if all the stewards started
jumping around too. It was off the chain. And then they left again, as
did many people in the crowd. I was adamant there'd be a second encore.
I mean, they've done it before and this was the biggest gig of their life,
so why not? And we wasn't to be disappointed.
Possibly the biggest shock song of the night (and yeah there've been a
few eh?) was "Micro Cuts." Not a personal favourite of mine
I'll admit, and if you aren't really familiar with all of Muse's stuff
it's likely you'll hate this one as it's all heavy and in falsetto, sometimes
even getting so high I'm pretty sure it should be called super-falsetto
or maybe another name altogether. Either way, it's quite ridiculous and
it does make you question Bellamy's manhood. Then "Stockholm Syndrome,"
something to really get the crowd going, and if I remember rightly, the
riff to this song was voted as one of the best ever rock riffs. Happy
days. On the Absolution Tour of 2003/2004, this was commonly a song that
a gig would end with, and it seemed appropriate. However, now with the
release of BHAR, it was "Take A Bow" that ended the set. Slightly
confusing to go from an amazing upbeat number to a slow synth song, that
is actually an album's opening track. I know it's about taking a bow and
all, but still, ending with this one was something that always stood out
as odd to me.
All in all, well, predictably I'm going to say it was fucking awesome.
Not much I can elaborate on that I'm afraid.
I'll admit though that I was slightly disappointed with the set list,
most notably, missing out my favourite song "Bliss." I know
for a fact that others would have this down as a favourite, and it was
also released as a single so I'm confused as to why it wasn't played.
On the second Wembley date, it was included, as was "Apocalypse Please,"
but at the end of the day it's their choice. Just a shame, is all. Regardless,
five stars, boys. With ease.
Review By Thom