Muse closed out London’s iTunes Festival in spectacular fashion last night with a set packed with songs from new album, The 2nd Law.
The iTunes Festival has been in residency at the Roundhouse in Camden, North London, throughout September, showcasing artists from One Direction to the Killers in an unusually intimate environment. But with Muse, regular stadium headliners in the U.K., last night’s event was perhaps the biggest attraction yet to squeeze into the Roundhouse’s 3,000-capacity main room.
If the compact surroundings required a downsizing of Muse’s traditionally extravagant stage production, there was no such paring down of the band’s sound or ambitions. They aired seven new songs in a 16-song set, starting the performance with The 2nd Law opener “Supremacy.” Singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy, clad in a sparkly suit, noted the influence of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page on the track.
“I believe he’s in the building,” said Bellamy, who would later play a brief burst of Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” riff. “It’s a great honor, sir.”
Queen’s Roger Taylor was also watching from the balcony, and while he did not receive a similar shout-out, many other songs in the set seemed to share DNA with his band. While Muse’s new material didn’t stint on Queen-style flamboyance, it also showcased a wider variety of influence than previous albums, from the straight-ahead, INXS-style funk-rock of “Panic Station” to the minimalist, electronic R&B of “Madness.” “Follow Me” hinted at the new album’s much-heralded dubstep influence, although Bellamy also introduced “Time Is Running Out” with the words, “Check out this dubstep bassline – from 2003.”
A nervous-looking Chris Wolstenholme got to sing “Save Me,” one of the bassist’s two contributions to the new album, but otherwise this was very much Bellamy’s show. The crowd took its time to warm to some of the unfamiliar material, but Bellamy threw himself into new songs such as the U2-esque “Animals,” given an added frisson with a video depicting venal-looking bankers, the targets of the song’s “Kill yourselves/Do us all a favor” line.
Nor was that the only stadium-sized flourish on display in this small venue, packed with excited competition winners who voluntarily paid about $32 each to help raise money for the War Child charity. As the band wheeled out the hits, the lights got brighter and the video projections more eye-popping. Giant robots stomped across the video screens during “Supermassive Black Hole,” while Bellamy’s rabble-rousing rock-god poses during set closer “Knights of Cydonia” would surely have drawn approval from the watching Page.
The band returned for encores of “New Born” and “Starlight” before concluding with “Survival,” last heard live in London at the Olympics closing ceremony. Even though stadiums might remain Muse’s natural environment, as the crowd lustily sang “Life’s a race / And I’m gonna win,” it was clear this band is just as epic – and every bit as effective – in a smaller venue.
Muse’s set list:
“Map of the Problematique”
“Supermassive Black Hole”
“Time Is Running Out”
“Plug In Baby”
“Knights of Cydonia”