Never Again ?

Muse excellent headlining performance only just about made up for an excruciating day on Friday 26th at Leeds 2011 Festival. It’s a while since I’ve been to a major festival and someone did warn me the big festivals (‘cept maybe Glasto has it’s own culture) were not worth it these days. It was only Muse that drew me there.

I did get to see Frank Turner at last, and I think I finally do get Elbow’s attraction, but almost everything else about Leeds was a descent into cliches. The audience participation routines, the look-at-me attention-seeking in front of the cameras turned on the audience, the throwing of food and drink and …. mud. Do me a favour.

OK, so I can’t blame the organizers for the rain, but rain it did – almost non-stop all day. It didn’t occur to me to take along a folding seat – more fool me – unable to take the weight off me pegs for 14 hours. No chance of sitting on the ground with all that mud – I did manage to stay close to the main stage action for most of the day without getting too covered in the stuff.

By the time of Elbow and Muse I was up against the secondary barrier with a good view (thanks to the slope in the Leeds arena). Muse’s set was notable for the full 10th anniversary rendition of Origin of Symmetry complete with physical set and backscreen of imagery from that album. That and for the fire / flame-throwing (at the climax of Hysteria IIRC, no Megalomania in fact) amongst the varied pyrotechnics … I could feel the heat on my face at the secondary barrier …. must have fried and startled the security posse between the stage and the primary barrier ! I hear it was toned down for the Reading Sunday set. (Incidentally, apart from the opening to New Born, played from behind a stage curtain, none of Matt’s piano pieces were included in the BBC showing of the Sunday gig at Reading – A very unrepresentative view of Muse, but apparently the band held most of the Origin of Symmetry back for public broadcast quality reasons, not having played most of it for years. But in the flesh it was excellent on Friday.)

Guy Garvey (of Elbow) did indulge in a fair bit of the audience participation cliches – … how you doin’ Leeds? I say, louder … show me you hands, clap, wave, conduct, call & response set-ups, etc …. even his “Bono moment” contrasting the positive crowd togetherness in a muddy field with the negative city rioting and looting earlier this month. And the audience duly obliged. Still you got the impression Guy felt is was the “festival thing to do” so he had to do it – written into the terms or something like that. Pity, since some of their choruses naturally generate spontaneous singalongs, without the need for detailed instructions. Notable that both Elbow and Muse both acknowledged each other from first touring together when Muse came to prominence 10 years ago with Origin of Symmetry. No doubt the “joint headline” billing had something to do with that mutual appreciation.

Oh, and the mud had the last laugh. After 2 hours of Muse, it took over an hour to trudge with the departing masses, back across the arena, across the festival site, across the campsites, across the fields to the car park, and another hour and a half to get out of the car park. (Nil signage,  negligible lighting and non-existent / uninterested stewarding …. didn’t help.) As well as being shin-deep in the quagmire the whole way, the hilly Leeds site meant I slithered over and fell twice between the arena and the car-park, and I wasn’t the only one. Good job my arrival at the car and changing out of the mud-caked clothes wasn’t captured on film – yeuch – not a pretty sight.

  1. New Born (What’s he building ? intro / Origin of Symmetry set projection / behind curtain.)
  2.  Bliss (synth intro, extended outro)
  3. Space Dementia (First performance since 2008)
  4. Hyper Music (First performance since 2003)
  5. Micro Cuts (First performance since 2007)
  6. Screenager (First performance since 2002)
  7. Darkshines (First performance since 2001)
  8. Megalomania (Siren/We Are The Universe intro)
  9. Uprising (riff version)
  10. Hysteria (Interlude intro, Back in Black outro)
  11. Time Is Running Out (House of the Rising Sun intro)
  12. Stockholm Syndrome (Township Rebellion & Endless nameless riffs)
  13. Knights of Cydonia (Chris with  harmonica intro)

Set List – courtesy of SetList. One of the great things about Muse sets, is the improvised intros and fillers, not to mention the thrown-in piano virtuosity of a little Chopin, Saint-Saëns or Rachmaninov – Matt’s not great at conversing with his audience, … except with his fingers. And eg Starlight and TIRO choruses provide genuine audience participation without the need for choreographed prompting.

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