The Simulation Theory Tour is intense and ambitious, colourful and loyal to what Muse has been doing for the past twenty years: surprising. We get into the simulation at the O2 Arena, London, through this live report.
The O2 Arena left a lovely first impression earlier this year thanks to Panic! At The Disco and, as we get to our block, we get this feeling back. The venue is massive, it’s true, but with a good height and the stage shape is giving away that we’re in for a great night. Facing it is ideal if we believe what the band has been putting on Instagram for the last months.
But before this, the opening. Tonight, and to have a change from the rest of continental Europe (‘cause y’know we’re still in Europe), we get Nothing but Thieves. The nice little rock band is, unfortunately, too still on this immense stage. With a solid introduction, they, then, lose in force after a couple of songs. We think, then, they’d be better in a club than in an arena.
The simulation really starts when they leave the stage and the lights turn blue, pink, purple and teal on the still arriving audience. The playlist makes us dive in pop culture with the theme of Stranger Things. That’s when Muse arrives in the matrice.
The exceptional show opens with the Alternate Reality version of Algorithm and an army of dancers, covered in futuristics costumes, surrounded by lasers and wearing LEDs, of course as we can’t, today, have some futurism without LEDs or lasers.
A genuine story is played then on stage, more narrative then what we could think at first. Pressure is rising, the Terminator-like skull of Murph appears next on the large screen and he becomes the Drill Sergeant. It is a powerful and efficient Psycho that follows.
It goes quick between songs. The dancers come and go, walk on the screen (yeah, vertically), go on with an army walk and give another layer to this already amazing show by the Plymouth’s trio. If Matthew Bellamy plays slightly less on the guitar, so he can sing and walk at the same time as well as getting close to the fans, he gives us a good range of gimmicks. Eternity Gantlet made of mirrors, a skull in hand as a Hamlet, lasers on his straight piano, jacket and glasses made of screens (yeah, LEDs again), he is a mix of pop references we couldn’t quite list.
Wonderful, this production offers us extended versions of some songs, like Uprising that makes everyone jumps to the roof, but also shortened versions during the ‘liberation’ medley when Murph, the immense and scary puppet they have as their antagonist, appears on stage. This medley has Stockholm Syndrome, Assassin, Reapers, The Handler and New Born, which together form the conclusion of the story. Freed from the simulation, Bellamy unplugs symbolically the arcade machine minutes before.
To be honest we didn’t suspect the narrative and scenographic power of some songs like Break It to Me, Propaganda, The Void or Interlude and Prelude mid-set. They all act as perfect scenes and link some of their biggest hits perfectly. We find, in those, Plug In Baby, Supermassive Black Hole, Hysteria, Mercy, Time Is Running Out and Starlight. Algorithm, the regular version this time, comes back close to the end of the set, like a reminder. It is, however, and quite naturally, Knights of Cydonia that comes to end this sublime Sci-Fi concert.
We clearly can see the band has done a great job of collecting all their intriguing work which, twenty years ago already, had some common theme such as technology, mass manipulation, conspiracies, simulation and other nice and light topics that seem to be fascinating to the trio, and even more to Bellamy. After such a show, powerful, intense and ambitious, we ask ourselves: what are they going to do next? But, as we know, we ask ourselves the question every single time… Now we just wait and see.