So, 9 days prior to this show happening, an announcement pops up on the muse.mu website announcing that MUSE would be playing a handful of very intimate gigs for the fans prior to embarking on many headline festival events all over the planet, fan club ticket allocation went on sale on Wednesday 11th March, guess who was sat at his laptop when the email came through!
For those not in the fan club, the general tickets were released on Thursday 12th March, again, you had to be pretty on the ball as 10 minutes after the sale opened, all tickets were gone, yes sirree, these were the equivalent of golden tickets to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory and at the Exeter show, there were 1800 Charlie Buckets, all waiting for the fun to commence!
I took the day off on Friday 20th March so I could get my stuff together, get to Exeter, have a wander around the shops (mainly Mansons Guitar Emporium) and head to the venue early to see what was happening. I walked up from The Imperial (pub) via the back road to the venue and was passed by the one and only Christopher Tony Wolstenholme who was driving his big red, ultra cool Jaguar, despite me struggling, he never even bothered to slow down to see if I was okay…..
Outside the Great Hall, there must have been around 100 people waiting, the front runners looked like they had been there for sometime as I could see camping chairs, foil blankets and various food containers, clearly these were the ‘hardcore’ fans who were willing to give up their day sitting/standing in a queue for a few hours in order to reach the front of the stage to see their idols in such an intimate venue. I sat for a few minutes, scribbled some notes, saw members of ‘Marmozets’ (support act) pop out for a cigarette and get pestered by a few fans for ‘selfies’, signatures and general chatter, I then left and headed back to the pub where my wife was meeting me later on. I decided to walk down the main route from the Great Hall to the road and I’m glad I did, there was a security guard stood at the bottom of the road, looking one way then the other rather erratically, now, he was either:
a) Waiting for someone
b) Looking for an ice cream van
c) Looking for a safe place to cross the road
I opted for a) and it didn’t take much calculating with both Chris and Dom already at the venue, he must have been waiting for Mr Matthew Bellamy!
10 mins later, a HUGE tour bus arrived, all smoked out windows and satellite dishes on the roof, it pulled in and drove slowly up the road to the rear gates of the venue, many of the fans followed the bus up in the hope of grabbing a glimpse of Matt, me and a few others decided to hang on as when I was chatting to the security guard, I saw underneath Matt’s name, it said ‘Red Mini Cooper’, now the bus that just pulled in was neither red nor a Mini Cooper so we decided to stay put.
We were rewarded a few minutes later when a car matching the description of the scribbled note pulled into the back road, driven by the one and only Matt Bellamy, he pulled a ‘rock n’ roll’ sign with his right hand, poked his tongue out at us (in a Gene Simmons from KISS kind of way) and drove up the road. We ambled after the car and at the top of the hill were some gates where Matt had just driven through and was kind enough to come back and talk to some of the fans, sign some interesting MUSE related items and generally ‘shoot the shit’ until a very nasty man said that Matt had to go and ‘soundcheck’ in order to sound good for us all tonight.
I walked back to the pub, grabbed a pint, gobbled some food and chatted to another concert goer from London and waited patiently for my dearly beloved to arrive.
We drove to the Great Hall together, parked up and walked the short distance to the Great Hall, the interesting thing was, there were no longer 100 people in the queue, there were now in excess of 1000, slowly moving along in a single file format, we walked about 5 miles to join the end of the snaking line (okay, it was probably about 500 metres) and there we stayed until we were asked to provide our bank cards, paper receipts, ID, inside leg measurements and mothers maiden names to the very friendly door staff in order to gain access to the venue.
Whilst we were in the queue, the first support band (Moriaty) had kicked off, not in the sense of getting lairy and fighting with the doormen, I mean they started to play…..we rushed up to the main room and caught 90% of their set, which was amazing. Moriaty are a Teignmouth based due consisting of Jordan West and Matthew Partridge, it was touch and go as to whether the guys could have supported MUSE at the venue as Jordan’s partner was due a baby anytime and he was obviously very anxious at being away from her at the show, it looks like Chris Wolstenholme did a grand job of managing to persuade them to play as they blew the roof off the place with their blend of filthy blues and immense guitar riffage. I was meant to be chatting to them at a pub before the show but I received a call from their PR manager saying that owing to a ‘surprise’ they were not going to be able to make the meeting, I was a little upset, no tears were shed but it would have been nice to interview the guys a couple of hours prior to their appearance on the same stage as one of the biggest bands on the planet right now….another time!
They played some awesome tracks and towards the end of, Jordan introduced a ‘dear friend’ to the stage, the one and only Chris Wolstenholme, who joined them for their track ‘Bones’ which Chris produced and also appeared on with his bass guitar, this went down really well and huge applause was heard at the end of the song.
We DID manage to carry out an interview with Jordan and Matt a while back, if you’d like to have a look (and WHO in their right mind wouldn’t?) then click HERE
After a short break for beers to be charged and bladders relieved, we were treated to a set by West Yorkshire based Marmozets who Matt and Dom had personally invited to tour with them for the small number of intimate dates. I understand that they had to cancel dates at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas as a result, but then again, how often do you get a call from MUSE asking you to support them? They took to the stage and launched straight into their opening track ‘Move, Shake Hide’ which saw Becca Macintyre really commanding the stage, thrusting her body into some strange poses and dancing like she’d never danced before, watching her was quite draining, oh to be young again! Highlights from their set included ‘Captivate You’ which saw the majority of the first 3 rows singing along with Becca, they ended up with ‘Why do you Hate Me?’ which saw the audience rising to the occasion, there was quite a lively mosh pit in operation, luckily, I was stood to the side of the room so did not get involved, I am after all a veteran of the music scene and if I were launched into a ‘pit’, I think I would just curl up in the foetal position and gibber quietly until there was a break in the music and then escape….like a frightened dormouse….
The set had clearly taken its toll on a couple of the band members, by the end, the drummer and one of the guitarists were without shirts and by the shine bouncing off their bodies, I would say that they probably needed a nice bath aswell!
Their album ‘The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets’ is available to buy now.
Move, Shake, Hide
Is It Horrible
Weird and Wonderful
Born Young and Free
Hit The Wave
Why Do You Hate Me?
The Marmozets left the stage to huge applause, clearly this young band of siblings have done enough to deserve their reputation as one of Britain’s brightest new hopes, lets hope they carry on burning brightly. The stage saw lots of roadie action, many bits of equipment were stripped away and wheeled off to be loaded back into the wagons for the next gig and the equipment and instruments for the MUSE boys were being tested and tuned in readiness for their performance.
The last time MUSE played at the Great Hall was when they supported Skunk Anansie on October 18th 1999, riding high from the success of their debut long player ‘Showbiz’ which was released just a month before the show. Their was a lot of talk amongst the audience as to the setlist for the nights performance, it seemed that they were alternating between ‘Bliss’ and ‘Uno’ at the gigs they had already covered, if this theory was correct, we should be looking forward to ‘Bliss’ being played. More talk on the opening track, we all agreed it would be ‘Psycho’ as all other dates opened with this killer offering lifted from their forthcoming 7th studio album ‘Drones’, this left only the last track to be debated, would it be a new one from the next album or would they go to town and finish on a fan favourite like ‘Knights of Cydonia’ or ‘Time is Running Out’, well folks, time was indeed running out as the lights dipped, the crowd roared and out walked 3 Teignmouth lads to take the stage to play to a sellout audience of just 1800 fans, this was going to be EPIC!
We were right, they launched straight into 'Psycho', I think the whole of the floor (and balcony) were bouncing along nicely, singing the song word for word, Matt, Dom and Chris were up on stage looking cool, calm and collected in front of what was the only ‘homecoming’ crowd on the short tour of the UK.
MUSE then took the fans on a whistle-stop tour from 1999 to 2015 in just over 90 minutes, highlights along the way for me included (well, aside from all of them…) ‘Muscle Museum’, which sounded fabulous, despite not being played since 2007 and ‘Bliss’ with the launching of the big balloons which created a lot of fun trying to ‘bounce’ them on the stage for Matt and Chris to kick back out at us (we’re all kids at heart really!).
‘Agitated’ was a surprise, seeing as it was a B-side lifted from the ‘Uno’ 7” single, I swear I have not heard that track for years… ‘Starlight’ had everyone attempting to clap in time (highly amusing), ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ with its funky guitar riff and chilling lyrics sung by Chris and ‘Uprising’ which was written from the viewpoint of Matt after seeing the G20 protests which happened on his doorstep in London were played towards the end of the initial set.
They ended the first segment with ‘Reapers’, a new track lifted from their forthcoming album which sounded technically brilliant with Matt displaying some super impressive finger tapping skills in the same way that Eddie Van Halen unleashed on the world back in his day.
The trio then left the stage and the chanting started, I’m sure they’d be out for another couple of tracks and to think that they hadn’t played ‘Time is Running Out’ or ‘Knights of Cydonia’! A MUSE gig just isn’t a MUSE gig until either/both of these classics are pulled out of their deep bag of tricks….
After a few minutes, the lads returned to the stage and burst into ‘Map of the Problematique’ lifted from their Black Holes and Revelations album, a true crowd pleaser in every sense, the best though, was yet to come!
When the opening elastic bass line to ‘Time is Running Out‘ started up, I thought the lady stood next to me was going to explode….Matt did a grand job of letting the audience sing along to the first part of the choruses before leaping about to the main part, excellent stuff.
This took us to the last track, the last track that they were going to play in Exeter, I may even be so bold as to say the last track that they may EVER play in Exeter as I doubt very much that they’ll be here again for a very long time, if at all…..what was it going to be? Well, when Chris picked a harmonica off his amp, we all knew what we were in store for and boy did they make it count, the intro ended, the guitar and bass kicked in and we were off, galloping across the space age Wild Western landscape! When the song broke and built again to the main section, the place literally erupted with EVERYONE leaping, fists punching the air, this really was THE best way to end a homecoming show.
After a terrific ending to what could easily be one the most anthemic songs in history, Matt and Co thanked the audience for attending and bid us all farewell. Chris threw some unused plectrums into the audience, Dom discarded his sticks into the front row and then they were gone….
It was odd to see that they didn’t play anything from their most recent album ‘The 2nd Law’, I guess they had just played this all over the world for what seemed like an eternity, so to take a break from the tracks in favour of some older songs was probably a welcome break!
Muscle Museum (first performance since 2007) (Showbiz)
Futurism (Bonus track on Japanese version of Origin of Symmetry)
Bliss (complete with the Hullaballoons)
Plug in Baby (Origin of Symmetry)
Stockholm Syndrome (Absolution)
Agitated (B Side on Uno 7” Single from Showbiz)
Starlight (Black Holes and Revelations)
Supermassive Black Hole (Black Holes and Revelations)
Uprising (The Resistance)
Map of the Problematique (Black Holes and Revelations)
Time is Running Out (Absolution)
Knights of Cydonia with Ennio Morricone's Man With a Harmonica intro (Black Holes and Revelations)
The new album 'Drones' is released on June 8th and is available to pre-order using the link below.
Review by Steve Muscutt
Images and Videos credited to their respective owners where possible