Download 2015: Muse
Venue: Download Festival, Donington
Teignmouth trio close the second evening in style
Say what you like about Muse – ridicule them for their mock-Orwellian Drones cover or Matt Bellamy's peddling of conspiracy theories – but they're one of the most consistent bands of the last 20 years.
Almost any Muse song is instantly recognisable from the opening distorted wail, and last night, they proved to a quietly sceptical crowd that not only have they nailed their distinctive sound, but they know how to keep a festival crowd entertained with minimal effort. The mood is very much one of B-movie rebellion as the show opens with sepia footage of a WWII-era drill sergeant warning Drones' unseen protagonist of the danger of disobedience. Without a word to the audience – some of whom are exchanging raised eyebrows at the theatrical introduction – Bellamy leads the trio straight into Psycho, and boom, the doubt is gone.
A carousel of half-dead nursery rhyme characters spins on the screen as Bellamy struts about the stage, wielding his guitar like it's an extension of his own body. He makes a pit stop at the piano to bash out the opening riff of Newborn, and the crowd are nodding in unison even before he leaps up and thrashes his way through the rest of the song. He's got his trademark jerky movements, Pete Townshend-esque windmilling and a charismatic smoulder but he's uncharacteristically quiet; the longest sentence he utters between songs is a variation on the stock rabble-rouser, 'How are you doing, Download?'
Nevertheless, Bellamy, bassist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dom Howard have got enough power and energy to keep the damp and weary festival-goers interested. A band without Muse's reputation might struggle to hold the attention of an audience with such little encouragement, but their tight, honed sound really is speaking for itself. The first of many collective cheers rises as they launch into Hysteria, and just in case anyone's ears were tuning out, they throw Back In Black's riff onto the end. The newer, heavier material from Drones sits in stark contrast with their better-known tracks, but by punctuating the set with anthems like Supermassive Black Hole and Time Is Running Out, and releasing a burst of streamers during new song Mercy, they make sure that attention never strays from the stage.
'Fuck Leicestershire police for scanning your faces!' bellows Bellamy, before launching into a triumphant encore with the fitting Uprising. You can almost imagine him rubbing his hands together with a mixture of glee and disgust when he found out about the facial recognition technology employed at this year's festival, knowing it provided the perfect opportunity to make a short but punchy political statement. Predictably, they end the set with Knights of Cydonia, with Wolstenholme playing Ennio Morricone's The Man With The Harmonica by way of an intro. 'Blown away' may be a phrase that induces a butt-clenching cringe in most people, but it's the most apt way of describing what Muse just did to the Download crowd tonight.
Muse Photos: Kevin Nixon