Godless in Paris.

It seems that Mr Bellamy has been reading my blog… I had recently resigned myself to the fact that I would not see Muse live again until next year. We have no festivals lined up to catch them at this summer (in all honesty I’m not really a great fan of Festivals); As a godless devout muser I feel a little shortchanged with the set lists which are crowd pleasers, sure; just….. not my crowd). I also couldn’t foresee Muse doing any tours of any description before the new album drops which, as I have already alluded to, is probably not going to be for a year at the least. It was a Friday, just the previous day we had undergone the release of Thought Contagion and the inevitable slating that has come to accompany all new Muse Releases:

“RIP Muse”

“It’s not Citizen Erased”

“It’s not Fury”

So… 2 of those are just plain stupid and the other is only just slightly north of batshit crazy. Personally this is what I love about Muse, they constantly challenge the fans with their output, every album has its unique sound and each has been a favourite for a while but when it comes down to it…. in the round, all of the songs all work together live and more than that its fucking seamless, it really is. I’ll never forget my initial thoughts on Dead Inside, I thought it was terrible but 3 listens in and suddenly I saw where they were going with it; How could I have doubted them?

So yes, it was still a Friday and I was at work, stopped for a drink and a catch up on my personal emails (24,000 unread and climbing….. we need to talk) and as I scrolled through the list of emails a subject caught my eye, ‘Muse Announce’….

You had me at Muse

And then as I opened the email, I felt the world fall away from me for just a split second

Muse Announce ‘By Request’ Show, in Paris.

The problem with being an agnostic is that the devil on your shoulder, who lets face it…. is really just pure untamed you, has no counterpoint to reign you in when ‘pure and untamed you’ gets just a little bit out of control; There is only the devil on one shoulder with his amazing ‘go for broke’ idea, his bestie from Hell on the other and in between them stands you; You with a vague idea that according to the laws of your next bank statement this is not…. But the dialogue never gets further than that because the devil already has you. You may remember some time ago that I blogged about the best gig to date that I have attended, Muse by request at Shepherds Bush radio theatre, London and you may also distinctly remember that I said

“No 1, this was London which is special, not as special as Paris, but nonetheless.”

Now you see my problem,

London was amazing but…..This was Paris, This was special.

A quick call to the 3rd devil, currently not on my shoulder, confirmed this fact with bells on. I could have talked myself out of it, probably… but not her. At this point controls inside me started to engage… The knowledge that Christmas is still fully transitting through my financial con trail at this time was one, the foreboding thought that my car also need tyres, an MOT, a service and a bloody wash was another and then we are also firmly into Birthday territory too from January right through til July.

But this was Paris, This was special

I returned to work and the rest of the day was the usual friday blur but a nagging feeling had set in, so much so that by the time I arrived home I had in truth already started to write this blog…. There was just the small matter of the tickets. Now I’ve been very lucky with tickets in the past, Shepherds Bush tickets were rarer than rocking horse shit but I came up smelling of roses on that occasion; looking into the venue details though I could see that the capacity was less again, 1350 fortunate godless souls was the limit and that was nearly half as much as Shepherds Bush. This fact twinned with the realisation that on the day of the bunfight I would be without Broadband  and would be tethering to the 4g of my phone almost made me write off the whole thing entirely.

But this was Paris, This was special

And so the morning came, i was all tethered up (fnarr) and at first the FNAC site was just crashing left right and centre as these sites always do when theres a big ticket grab on but finally I was able to log on, give my verification code which then allowed me to select two tickets… further to that, I was able to enter very hurriedly my name and card details; I’ve been here before though.. you click next thinking its ‘dans la poche’ but your card never gets processed (or worse still… it gets processed twice which I have had too!)

{Clicks Next} and even to my tired and very experienced ticket buyers eyes this was looking good.. The payment verification came up and then I knew….But I daren’t vocalise it and then I yelped as I looked at the confirmation number on my screen. How the actual fuck did that happen? I’ve been on 52 gb broadband chasing 4 of 100,000 tickets and failed miserably… The confirmation email hit my inbox and then it was time to get busy with flights and hotels which was, because of the short notice, ruinously expensive and of course childcare which was not.

We then had the small matter of those ‘By Request’ songs, 5 in this instance which I guess is to give a much more focused view of the favourites. By Tuesday, with the week seeming to have zero hours available we both made our hugely instinctive lists. In truth I knew whatever was picked it would be a treat and I was not as bothered as I was at Shepherds Bush, this time I was confident in the choices my tribe would make. I made my choices, stunning songs all but as it turns alll completely absent from the set.

setlist2

Now I have a slight admission to make at this point, this post is being compiled so far in retrospect of the event that what took place in that intervening week between grabbing the tickets and flying out is forgotten for all time, so too were the song choices my ‘ex’ devil made….  Bygones. So exactly 1 week later, we arrived in Paris, February in Paris is lovely but in this instance it was bitterly cold. Generally I try and book accomodation as close to the venue as possible as it makes the whole evening flow easier; My choice of Hotel on this occasion was less than salubrious and as it turns out completely impossible to heat which made for a very uncomfortable night. But that was for later… In the meantime we made our way to the venue, passing more sex shops than I think I have ever seen in my life up to this point. La Cigale as it turned out was remarkably unimposing, a rag tag assemblage of architecture with a white facade, it was then that we began the process of queueing. As custome dictates we firstly joined the incorrect queue for a little while before realising the error of our ways and then joined a much less attractive looking queue shoved down a side street; in short form we filed through the lobby of the building where we were given a bracelet which allowed us to join the main queue. Job done, and with some considerable time left until the gig we decided to walk the queue and see what was what before heading off to eat at the brasserie over the road from the venue. The bitter cold had done nothing to kerb peoples enthusiasm for the event but jeez, there were some girls in a bit of trouble there. In order to get to the front they had been queueing since the early hours but the immense cold was really taking its toll, many of them were wrapped in blankets of silver foil with some vague hope of coaxing some warmth into their failing bodies. I admire their dedication but I doubt that they got the full experience out of the evening; in truth I expect the whole thing was a real battle for them. Given the fluidity of the standing area it always seems futile to me to put the queueing ahead of the experience itself. Once again the girls at home, through the power of social media, espied us queuing; in truth had my hairdresser been looking I’m sure that she too would have with my bald spot being as distinctive and as visible from space as the bat-signal.

As I said, quite some time has passed since this blog was begun. I sit here firmly in the autumn of 2019 and much of the experience has at this point exited stage left. I remember being in awe of the black gilding inside the the venue, it looked stunning and I remember thinking that some of those frozen girls we observed outside must be nicely thawing out now as the temperature inside made the cold of just 1 hour ago seem such a distant memory. What I remember most of all though about the venue was the floor of the standing area. It somehow transmitted the whole crowd movement to each person in the pit, it seemed to bounce and yet offer no support much like a trampoline and I would not have been surprised had it completely fallen through at some point. I however placed my trust in the french civil engineers who were paid a lot of money to make sure that this eventuality would never happen.

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The Black Gilded Palace

As always the Parisian crowd were fucking awesome; the vibe was electric, so much more than Shepherds Bush for me, and eventually – as with Shepherds Bush there was no ceremony to the band entrance. The lights dropped and there they were.

A ‘Bonsoir Paris’ from Matt before he threw me a total swerve, the opening chord that he teased with had that same ‘see saw’ quality as that of Glorious, one of my song choices. I dared to hope but then, as is more normal custom, they broke into the latest song ‘Thought Contagion’. This  worked really well live and had the crowd singing from the outset, not that we ever need any encouragement. Matt finished the song with “We know you didn’t come for that, but thank you” before the guitar put us all on notice for the immensity of Hysteria that was about to come our way. Heavy as it was the floor survived although this was the first time that we truly got an appreciation for just how much bounce there was. And then for me probably the 2nd highlight of the night as Matt told us “Here we go with the deep, deep  cuts”. The first French choice had surprised him and he said that it must be something about the French; Now as anyone who knows me I have a deep affinity and love of the French and so as I too loved this song this bought me ever closer to feeling entirely at one with the best audiences on the planet.  ‘Eternally Missed’ is not complex by any stretch compared to their later stuff but it just hits the fucking spot with those drums, sometimes simplicity trumps all.

New born came, and New Born went doing exactly as it always does, tightening and gently winding up the crowd and then for me a bitter sweet song, Dace Dementia; It takes me right back to Reading Festival 2011, and that walk …. that interminable walk from the Car Park at the edge of space and time to the main arena where my late arrival made me miss the whole of Oos which of course includes this song. This song, that night in Paris, made up almost entirely for Reading but it was only the precursor; a slightly controversial statement by Matt about American fans which had the forums in meltdown gave way to the highlight of the night for me. Listening back to the footage between tracks I can hear myself, several times above the crowd shouting.

FURY

FURY

In retrospect nobody was shouting for anything else, it was apparently the ‘Best Japanese Bonus Track’, who. the. fuck. knew…. In a battle between Fury and Futurism, Futurism was never going to win, not ever. Fury is the epitome of Muse for me, and for many many others. Its a rallying call and always a whisper in the queues and a rumour that ‘tonight is the night’ and indeed it is the basis of the title of this blog, ‘Godless in Paris’ as I and so many others were that night.

So happy now, burning the candle at both ends

Your self loathing soothes and the softens the blows you’ve invented

Breathe in deep

And wash away our sins

And we’ll pray  that there’s no god..

Perfect, for this night, and with this, my french tribe, judge for yourself.

And then a break from the deep cuts, Pyscho never fails to deliver; a great sing-along and from probably my favourite album… now that the dust has settled some. There then followed an interlude for Matt as the rhythm section indulged us with ‘Helsinki Jam’, what these guys can do without just two instruments never ceases to amaze. Matt was then back with an admission, that this next ‘peoples choice’ would always win; Of course he’s right but then Showbiz is just one of those songs that everyone has grown up with, quite literally, grown up with given the subject matter. The audience at this point were word perfect as they always are for this rare treat of a song and I remember exchanging glances with a French guy stood next to me at this point; a kindred soul caught up in the filth and dirt of this song which digs deep into you. I remember at the end of the song we had a chat, mostly about my love of the french crowds particularly for Muse and he quite simply said to me:-

Welcome to fucking Paris

I knew what he meant, and now more so than ever. Uprising came and went as it does, mostly a bit of a non-event these days for me before a stalwart of any set in the name of Citizen Erased bit into the heated air, in my mind things got a bit messy at this point, what with the swirling circles and we were by now deeper into the trampoline which seemed ever threatening.  72% of those who voted chose Citizen Erased over Butterflies & Hurricanes, a difficult choice to make as for me these songs are pretty much 50/50 in terms of being the best of what Muse has to offer. CE just takes it though, it appeals to the hardcore fans; I remember a concert @ Wembley in 2010 for the Resistance tour and a chap just up the aisle from us, he seemed stoney faced for the whole concert, that was until CE came on at which point he became a drummer extraordinaire! Must have been his jam…

Next up came the first sounds I ever heard emanating live from Matts Guitar and they still affect me as they did that night in Dublin, Close Encounters; In Dublin they were used as an opening for Map of the Problematique though tonight they were in their more normal form as the prelude to Super Massive Black Hole

Supermassive gave way to Matts favourite OoS song, Bliss, which sounded fucking great. To this day I have no idea how they ever used this song as a set opener, It just doesn’t seem to work for me in that slot. But now the end was in sight as the band disappeared and we found ourselves all too quickly in encore territory; as the French do they sang their little encore chant which I always forget until the moment at which it actually happens and the boys were back for the first encore

And what a first encore it was, Muscle Museum followed by a quirky guitar sound for Plug In Baby, so quirky that it was even more noticeable in the building itself with a great intro that I’ve never heard before. Matt had a long of fun with this song, to the degree that he is seen and heard laughing a couple of minutes in just prior to the 2nd chorus for reasons unknown. Plug in Baby just takes me straight back to my first Paris Muse gig at the Stade de France and hearing that thunderous bass line bouncing off the stadium walls with greater than ever clarity was just something else.

And then the final encore and that chant for the band…

Mat returned to ‘ask’ the audience which songs they’d like to hear, of course he’d already decided upon one, the opening song from Shepherds Bush gig and one of the songs with so much energy from the ‘get go’ that its a natural song to start the final encore with. Effortlessly he ploughed into Assassin and then came a curve ball which changed the final 15 mins immeasurably. The ‘internet’ had been asked for the best gig closing song and with the narrowest of margins  ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ saw off Knights of Cydonia, in this instance I went with the flow despite the fact that this year, I’d really had enough of asking the public what they wanted. Stockholm does have some immensely cool drum work that set’s it aside from just about anything.

Straight into 2 deep cuts, Agitated and Yes Please, for the close of the performance just about had me done, ringing wet and hugging total strangers, I was now entering that phase of the night where my head was just a jangled state, a mash of chords, drums and lights where you know you’re done for the night and the whole seems to melt into one.. Too much to take in now.

But I reflected upon a night without that harmonica; despite the bittersweet feelings I always get, the knowledge that it’s all over before it truly is… I truly missed it.

I’m aware that many times over I’ve said that ‘this was the best gig I’ve ever been to’. But this time, I really mean it! Musically SBE had a better choice of songs, but that Parisian crowd… that atmosphere. As I might have mentioned once or twice before

This WAS Paris, This WAS Special.

 

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