Having established themselves as one of the world’s biggest bands with some of the most incredible stage shows puts a certain amount of pressure on Muse to keep this up and put on a show worthy of their status. When they brought the military themed Drones Tour to Manchester Arena last Friday, they certainly did not disappoint the thousands of expectant fans.
Support act Nothing But Thieves  warm up the audience perfectly with their rock sounds and Conor Mason’s huge voice as they blast their way through a 25 minute set. Littered with recognisable songs that you haven’t been able to put a face to until now, the set has the whole crowd headbanging along and dancing where they stood, rare for a support to manage when all many want to see is the main draw. Songs such as Itch and Ban All The Music are the obvious favourites as Mason makes full use of his versatile voice, at times sounding like a mini Matt Bellamy with a little more edge, all the while supported by the consistently incredible riffs and heavy drums that the band provid. It is telling that even the slower songs such as If I Get High maintain the full attention of the audience, with Mason’s up to now strong voice taking on a vulnerable tone, adding to the emotion of the song. Chat with the crowd is kept to a minimum but it isn’t really needed; the set is so strong that by the time last track Ban All The Music comes on, many are hungry for more, completely forgetting the treat that lies ahead.
And so it begins. The choral sounds of Matt Bellamy fill the stadium as the drones that lay above the crowd suddenly spring to life, getting into formation and lining the stage, lying in wait for the moment that Muse  erupt from the stage, making full use of the 360 degree set they designed. The heavy riff of Psycho incites immediate screams from the fans who have waited hours to get the perfect view. It is obvious that Matt Bellamy relishes his role as frontman; he jumps up and down the stage with boundless energy, with Chris Wolstenholme and Dom Howard driving the songs with the bass and drums.
There is no letting up as the band smash through Reapers before recognising they even have a crowd. The setlist itself is perfectly constructed, reflecting the theme of drones and punctuated by instrumentals allowing the band and audience to have a much needed respite. Fan favourites such as Supermassive Black Hole and Hysteria see huge mosh pits and mass sing alongs form. The whole evening feels incredibly intimate in that sense; the arena can hold thousands of people yet at no point does it feel like that. The band ensure that everyone is involved whether it be by storming every inch of the stage or by interacting with them; huge balloons fall on the crowd during Starlight and the band have a strange game of ping pong with the standing crowd before lashings of confetti erupt from them. Songs from latest album Drones that are heavily dramatised on the topic of robotics and artificial intelligence are paired with projections of robots controlling the band as they play, making them seem like puppets on a string. Even when the huge crowd blocks your view of the band as they revolve on the stage, the projections allow you to feel okay about it, although you’re not missing out an anything.
Cameras litter the stage too, filming the band as they do what they have become so good at doing and filming the crowd’s amazed reactions. There is barely a moment’s breath before the encore arrives; Take A Bow welcomes it before Knights Of Cydonia sees the band depart. Even the closing song has been extended and given a special twist with a Ennio Morricone’s Man With A Harmonica intro, showing just how much the band love what they are doing. The two hours seem to have flown by, the feeling of sore feet and an aching body from dancing evaporating in the face of disappointment that the night isn’t longer. Seeing Muse live isn’t just going to see a band, it’s going to see a show, and it’s something I recommend everyone do at least once in their lives.
Words by Clara Duffy