Muse - Allphones Arena, Sydney

Written by Tom Williams

Muse - Allphones Arena, Sydney

Even before Muse grace Sydney’s Allphones Arena, Christmas carols billow out of the venue’s PA. This was the band’s festive final stop on The 2nd Law tour, and they were clearly set on enjoying every moment.

It’s immediately apparent that frontman Matthew Bellamy and drummer Dominic Howard have been growing out their hair, the pseudo-mop-tops making them look curiously Australian. Yet it’s not until a fan throws Bellamy a tinselled Christmas-tree-esque hat to wear that he’s completely in the relaxed Aussie Christmas spirit.

The English three-piece were last in the country in 2010, appearing at the Big Day Out but returning later in the year for their own headlining shows. This time around, the group’s set is heavily padded with cuts from the aforementioned The 2nd Law, as well as 2009's The Resistance, with only a few surprises in between.

Bassist Chris Wolstenholme takes the spotlight on Hysteria, and the band jam along to AC/DC’s famous Back In Black guitar riff during the outro, just like they did in 2010. The song is followed up by the evening’s most welcome surprise, the dramatically uplifting Butterflies & Hurricanes.

The scale of the production makes me wonder what a 20-year-old Bellamy would have thought of all this: the smoke machines, the extraordinary light show, the enormous stage. What would he think of his band’s sound? It retains that dramatic and foreboding tinge which has always permeated his songwriting, yet it now draws so heavily from pop music that songs such as Undisclosed Desires and Madness feel like outliers.

With the symbolic retirement of the group’s 2001 space-rock odyssey Origin Of Symmetry after it was played in full at Reading and Leeds Festival in 2011, only one of its tracks appears in Sydney, consistent crowd-pleaser Plug In Baby. Knights of Cydonia receives the biggest applause and the largest waves of moshing fans, just as it did on the last tour.

Muse’s setlist is very much a ‘shut up and play the hits’ sort of affair, yet the trio feel more personable on this tour, probably due to the feeling of relief which accompanies a tour-ending show. Bellamy even provides a quite reasonable attempt at beat-boxing, and leads an “AUSSIE-AUSSIE-AUSSIE OI-OI-OI” chant. “You’re the best crowd we’ve had in Australia so far,” he implores. Oh, Matthew, I bet you tell everyone that.

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