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:: Muse :: The Noisettes ::
10 November 2006 / The Arena / Manchester

Quite why The NOISEttes are supporting MUSE is anyone’s guess. They’re a band who wrestle with their bluesy meanderings and a punk attitude, but only last November they were fumbling with a billing that saw them play second fiddle to The Mystery Jets at The Roadhouse. To be honest they haven’t moved on since then and their excitable acrobatics and the dynamics of Shingai Shoniwa just don’t translate well to a crowd that barely nod and whose applause begins to wane slightly during the bands overlong forty minute set.The band’s single "Don't Give Up" is out soon through their major label sponsor and whilst Shingai may be recovering after dislocating her shoulder she convincingly gives it all she's got. For the first part of the set, they have a guest bass player – unfortunately the sound engineer has neglected to include it in his already weak mix – the drum kit’s floor toms are louder and it’s a complete waste of time. Things pick up when, returning to a three piece, Shingai then carries a guitar and then eventually a bass - which all adds a better edge to their sound, but again the set ends on a low point. The NOISEttes are good honest pub rock - the kind of stuff that demands face to face confrontation and they’re either not ready, or never intended in any circumstances, for this scale of stage and venue.

The touring MUSE set looks all very Dr Who. As ever, Bellamy and Co keep their on-stage stuff to a minimum and their use of creative video is stunning. Drummer Dom Howard is hidden inside a massive Dalek style pod, with a lid that rises to reveal him bashing his kit, as the outside flashes with video footage and light effects. His see-through drums are lit with washes of colour, but you don’t need to add any glamour to his fantastic drumming style. Whilst Howard is dressed in a weird pyjama style outfit, Chris Wolstenholme and Matt Bellamy prefer black, with Bellamy favouring the Tim Burton / Dickins, stick thin waif look, complete with a fly-away scarf tied to his arm. It makes for some spectacularly splendid camp and deliberately overblown moments, as Bellamy ably splashes the keys of his neon lit piano. This is Bellamy in his prime : A rock god who likes a bit of Radiohead, Queen, Mozart and Liberace.

With just the one support band, this is a bloody feast of Muse-dom – 90 minutes and 18 tracks isn’t just good value it’s unmissable. Since the “Absolution” album and tour three years ago, there is also a new generation of fans – teenagers are crammed into this venue. One girl’s voice fades over the hour and a half as she fails to sustain more than a couple of hundered screams and proclamations of love for the wiry singer. The standing area is crammed and provides a steady stream of crowd surfers, a world record threatening 2000 person pogo and a pit circle that looks like the swirling loop of a hurricane seen from orbit. A brilliant atmosphere.

But back to Muse – their attraction, aside from the songs obviously, is that they are also just such fantastic musicians. Previous tours have relied on backing tracks, but with the addition of a keyboard player, there’s definitely something more organic and spontaneous about this set – songs are extended and the trio jam out and include extra bits and pieces along the way. Wolstenholmes powerful basslines and pitch perfect backing vocals are essential and he's a man with a steady yet inspiring style.

The new album sees plenty of action from the opening song “Take A Bow” to the long awaited encore of “Starlight”. Highlights of “Assassin”, “Map of the Problematique”, the falsetto rock out of “Supermassive Black Hole” and “Invincible” all seem like long lost favourites. But there’s also a catalogue of early stuff too. The first album wonder of “Muscle Museum” is feverishly lapped up and from “Origin Of Symmetry” we get “New Born”, “Plug In Baby” and “Feeling Good” (the last track resulting in a broken megaphone being chucked unceremoniously across the stage by Matt).

Fifteen songs float by all too quickly, but with three more delivered in the encore, the band finish on their new single “Knights of Cydonia” – the twangy western theme rings out and then consumes the listener in a world of prog rock and metal wig outs – It’s a pompous, almost cheesy, exciting and flamboyant piece – typical Muse and a track that their fans tip for a Christmas number one. I honestly for one, hope that all their dreams come true. It may be a few years off, but I think like me, a lot of people are already looking forward to their next album and tour.

MEN 10/11/06 : Set List :

Take a Bow (Black Holes And Revelations)
Hysteria (Absolution)
Assassin – extended (Black Holes And Revelations)
Butterflies & Hurricanes (Absolution)
Plug in Baby (Origin Of Symmetry)
Map of the Problematique incl Maggie's Farm Riff (Black Holes And Revelations)
Muscle Museum (Showbiz)
Forced In – instrumental (Hullabaloo)
Bliss – extended (Origin Of Symmetry)
Feeling Good (Origin Of Symmetry)
Hoodoo (Black Holes And Revelations)
Invincible (Black Holes And Revelations)
Supermassive Black Hole (Black Holes And Revelations)
Time is Running Out (Absolution)
Stockholm Syndrome / Jam / Glastonbury outro (Absolution)

Starlight (Black Holes And Revelations)
New Born (Origin Of Symmetry)
Knights of Cydonia (Black Holes And Revelations)

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