July 2019 and I found myself back in Paris, another year another tour. As I think about it I can just hear the words of Mike Patten ‘Return to my own vomit, like a dog’ from that Faith No More classic ‘Kindergarten’, FNM were coincidentally one of the first big bands that I saw, at the less than salubrious NEC (as was) in Birmingham. Heres why they were so awesome:-
They were supported on that night by L7, yes…. THAT L7! Renowned and remembered for ever more by people of a certain generation for over exposing themselves on the Word, back in the days when I massively maligned Terry Christian who I regarded at that time as a gobshite…. I’ve since apologised to him on Twitter as it turns out I was, completely wrong.
But I digress, once again I found myself in Paris, this time with my two ‘kids’, I say kids but they’re actually adults who failed to get the eviction notice that I never served on them; Furthermore one of them doesn’t even belong to me. We were visiting a few areas of France, A little tourism in Paris, South for a few weeks for a rendezvous with Frejus, the town that has long stolen my heart before heading off to the Pyrenees for some time with borrowed family and then onto the Charente area for some house hunting. All of this punctuated with a little Muse, and a little music wherever we could find it.
We had rented a proper french apartment in the 2nd arrondissement. When I say proper I mean the front door was as heavy as a moon, the ceilings were impossibly high, the electrics looked incredibly…. French and the lift could take, at a maximum, 3 stick thin Parisian women holding only clutch bags. The walls of the apartment were lined with black and white pictures of beautiful Parisian models of the 50’s; Well, I say walls… the photographs had not actually made it to head height and were instead lining the skirting board but I have nothing if not a good imagination…. The intent, was there, I’m sure! The fridge and cupboards were filled with a plethora of varying foodstuffs ranging from foreign to decidedly foreign, they had been left by many previous diverse travellers and made for a real lottery in terms of sheer variety and indeed in terms of possible sources of food poisoning. During our stay we chanced our arm with some, left the more questionable and of course added our own selections to this culinary ‘Parisian Roulette’. Indeed, we have a similar situation at home where we have inherited, from no-one knows where, an antique french tin of Canard Confit which with Brexit looming we think may even start to look vaguely attractive (the duck of course… not Brexit).
We had managed to pick probably the hottest period in France for our vacation, the temperature in the capital that weekend touched 39 and to be honest I think I broke the ‘children’ with my insistence that we go discovering in that heat! In truth it was as much as we could do to struggle from one cold beverage to the next but somehow we walked for miles. We even made it back to the Moulin Rouge where a nearby hotel from my previous visit to Paris had to do battle with first my pidgin french and then my exasperated english to return a watch I had left there. My partner of that time had left a lot more than a watch, much of it down the toilet I seemed to recall if we absolutely have to stick with the ‘eating something dodgy’ theme. It was then a quick Metro ride across the town to the, for me, hallowed air of the Stade De France which is just always special. The first time I walked into that stadium and saw that vastness of it unfold before my eyes it completely took my breath away; Sure I’d been to Wembley and other arenas but in truth they felt like nothing in comparison. Im glad to say that it’s never lost that appeal since.
This was July 6th 2019, It was hot. All attempts at procuring any kind of drink failed although I did harass the security guard who gave me a sneak peak of the set list. I closed my eyes for the whole experience! And so it was going to be a long dry night. Due to my watch obtaining antics we didn’t have long to soak up those evening rays of sun in the massive standing area before the show was afoot… This was of course a proper show, unlike La Cigalle had been and the theatricality was evident from the very start. The massive display screens started the ball rolling as they so often do:-
We Are Caged In Simulations
The backing music we all knew as that of the Alternate Reality version of Algorithmn, a stunning and perfect opening track. The screen flicked to ‘Rendering Simulations’ as the suitable clad theatrics, complete with trombones encircled the stage floor from where Matt would emerge, complete with his ‘Glove of Thanos’. Never one to understate his presence on the stage is Mr Bellamy… I found this stunning footage from the start of the show which just hints at the massive amounts of Bombast that the whole evening provided and perfectly captures that pre-show/Opening song buzz
Truth is, this was the first time in forever that nothing on the setlist was going to be a surprise. The ‘Simulation Theory’ tour is more of a concept and so the set list is pretty damn rigid which is not my ideal. So it goes without saying that the 2nd song of the night, and just about any night on the tour, was of course ‘Pressure’ the video of which is a homage to many aspects of the 80’s genre. Think…. Back to the Future, ET, Thriller, Gremlins, Teenwolf, Ra Ra Skirts, Big Hair, BMX, Ghostbusters etc. Added to this was the massive tip to Muse’s own origins with the re-emergence of ‘The Rocket Baby Dolls’ as they were for a brief period back in the 90’s. Pressure seems have achieved a cult status in a short time period which I’m not a subscriber to personally. Its good, but not that good. Firmer territory followed, Psycho with that Riff from the early 2000’s, not given life as a song in its own right until the Drones Album some 15 years later. It’s one of those tracks that unquestionably deserve its status and sits easily alongside any of the previous albums, and likely, any future ones too. We were then thrust back into the latest album with Break it to Me, Arabic/Turkish musical overtones with its hugely dischordant riff all with a hint of rubber clad abseil artists because….. well, just because! Without so much as a bye, or a leave, we were straight into Uprising, a singalong favourite where the crowd become choristers and the band fight to be heard above a stadium full of devotees.
And then it arrived, Propaganda… I’ve know some dreadful songs but boy, this tops them all. A soldiers poem is bad but fuck this takes things to a whole new level. To me the song sounds a lot like Prince, or ‘The Artist formerly know as Prince’ or whoever the fuck he is today… apart from not alive. This likeness is a shame because I think he’s bloody awful too and probably explains why I feel so strongly about this song. I can switch off… True there’s a lovely piece of slide guitar in there but aside from that I can just stand and crowd watch for a little while. Thank god for the opening refrains of Pug In Baby which instantly erase the last 4 minutes of time. It was at Stade de France way back in 2010 (I think) that the bass in this song really came to life for me, my first Stade de France concert… I remember how the bass reverberated off the stadium walls and beat its way into my skull; I can’t hear it now without being transported straight back, well … here. On that day though we were high up in the gods unlike ‘today’ where we are down in the sweat and glory of the the standing area. There was a pause in proceedings as the screens carried on with the concept story to Pray (High Valyrian); This was immense, uplifting even. It gave way to the fourth released single off the new Album, Dark Side, a song we had been sneakily introduced at La Cigalle unbeknownst to many at that time. Then a genesis moment for me as the ‘Close Encounters’ theme, the first thing I ever heard Matt play live, gave way to Supermassive Black Hole. After all these years still on the set list despite the tainting it received by virtue of many ‘teen musers’ being introduced via the twilight movies. I have to be honest if I’d have wanted any of the twilight songs to survive it would have been the other, ‘Neutron Star Collision’, which makes me think of my daughter whenever I hear it. When travelling in the car this a song that I can never bring myself to flick. Sadly I’ve never been lucky enough to hear it performed live.
Back to Paris, 2019 though…Thought Contagion, the second released song off the Simulation Theory album, sounded as heavy as it did at La Cigale when it had its first public outing, it in turn gave way to Interlude which led straight into Hysteria, the 3rd most played song which ended as is customary with the Back in Black outro.
Then…Bliss, quite literally. Like ‘he who cant be named’, this is the song that cannot be described. It just has to be heard and observed. It was however dedicated on this evening to an app developer called Melanie Peron who had created an application, also entitled, ‘Bliss’ intended to help patients with anxiousness
Again the screens took over, the band rested and this time as the concept continued The 2nd Law Unsustainable was our accompaniment; A song that never gets old or tired. The beauty of those strings which I can never hear enough of before we’re launched into the heavy dub step with which Muse so challenged their traditional rock followers during the 2nd law release. The only disappointment nowadays is that we never get an outing from ‘Charles the Robot’ who made this his own back in the 2nd law days. Between songs Matt remarked of Paris
You guys really are the most passionate audience in the world
Now for me, this was no surprise. However I had always thought it was a ‘French’ thing and not a ‘Paris’ thing. I was very shortly going to learn that this was not the case, but that… was for another day. For now, the surprise of the night was upon me, Dig Down’. A song I’ve always disliked intensely but that night they played the Gospel version which was truly outstanding. A ‘whole other Jerry Springer Show’ as someone very close to me likes to remark. The wide open stadium configuration gave way to 3 guys stood in a triangle with their instruments… the audience asked to provide the lighting with their phones. The results were beautiful and along with the superb gospel arrangement pulled this awful song off into the stratosphere. Judge for yourself
Then more of the concept, the show, the birth of Murph, which eventually gave way to Madness, a song with a crescendo and an orgasmic quality to it… some 80,000 musers, male and female alike, brought to the edge before being gently tipped over…
I Need to Love
Some 2 minutes later we were breathless and sensitive to the touch, and Matt showed us Mercy a song that fully deserves its place with the set. The Pyscho tour saw this song as the penultimate song with that display of lights and paper trails but tonight it never even made it to the encore. Another stalwart of the live set, the 2nd most performed muse song ‘Time is Running Out’ was next, this was the first Muse video I remember seeing played on Kerrang all those years ago with its Dr Strangelove overtones; this of course gave way to the Houston Jam as it almost always does. And then, my takeaway moment of the night
Take A Bow, a song that has recently just found new life in the Muse set, I think the refresh occurred around the time of the Shepherds Bush gig. For me this was a true genesis moment (not of the Phil Collins, balding superstar variety). This was a song that I first saw at Marlay Park, Dublin at my first Muse concert, until that point I must be honest that I just didn’t ‘get it’. But that night opened a doorway for me. Every chord of this song enters my body not just through the ears, but seemingly through my spine and travels immediately upward to meet the impulse travelling down from my ear drums; And where they meet… the magic happens.
Nothing says end of the main show quite like Starlight.
This ship is taking me far away
From the people who care if I live or die
TIFO made it a song to remember with the provided balloons allowing the audience to spell out the words,
Welcome To the Simulation
The band apparently were completely unaware that this had been organised and were in turn a bit taken aback. This was a theme that was to follow at each of the French venues.
And then then there was only the sound of the crowd, baying for more and the inevitable, and very unique french chant for an encore, this time echoed by the largest stadium on the tour. We didn’t have to wait long, the concept continued, Matt showing off in a skeletal exo body and then my second highlight of the Night. Algorithmn… The Real Algorithmn With that rythmn… heavy as the night.
Burn like a slave
Churn like a cog
We are caged in simulations.
Push us aside
Render us obsolete.
More of the concept followed and the story unwound, A shortened ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ pierced the dying embers of the concept and with them came Murph. Now… I have to be honest, for me this was nothing that Iron Maiden hadn’t done thirty years earlier with Eddie so… Lets just leave him there swaying in the evening air; As shortened versions of The Assassin, Reapers (hinting at, but missing the best dying chord bit out), The Handler (hinting at, but missing the best trancy bit out) and New Born were all reversed into each other like a 5 car pile up… You could tell which car was which but somehow you lost the best bits of each. I know that nowadays with such a vast repertoire the boys have to get inventive but for a purist such as I it didn’t work. But then… we’ve already done away with support bands nowadays, how long can they really play for each night!
And then, we were there again…. That damned harmonica of Ennio Morricone signalling the final intense bittersweet final singalong that was about to occur before Knights Of Cydonia would be the last noise ringing in our assaulted eardrums. The final chords would give way to the forlorn hope that they may come back but then the final click as the PA systems go off line and the entire crowd as one get the hint. The lazy music-drunkness of the satiated Parisian audience meandering from the stadium seems surreal in the relative quiet and calm of the aftershow; Your ears having to adjust to hearing more normal noises again. People, voices, echos footsteps, coughs… all once more audible and no longer buried beneath a mountain of fierce vocals, guitars and drums. I love this aftershow period, your last few minutes with your tribe as we all seek to find our way homeward in this vast city where the best audiences, without exception, are always to be found; Knowing that one day, in the not too distant future we’ll all be here together again to make more memories in our tiny tiny lives.
14 Hrs later we landed in the heat of Frejus, Home. At Last.