Monday, 7 September 2009

Muse - The Den, Teignmouth, 04/09/09

It says a lot about Teignmouth that there literally are road signs pointing to 'out of town'. There's not a lot to do there, bar leave. It's a seaside town of 15,000, and is basically notable for nothing apart from being Muse's hometown. You see, Muse are Teignmouth's equivalent to The Beatles, in a sense; almost everyone has some kind of anecdote relating to them, some connection or other, mainly incredibly tenuous by nature.

This duo of gigs is, over the space of a weekend, pretty much doubling Teignmouth's population. They may not be much of a surprise to locals (my friends and I have been speculating and hearing vague rumours of something along these lines for years, as have many others, I'm sure) but they're certainly an event. There are 'welcome home Muse' signs and banners in almost every shop window - then again, events are fairly thin on the ground in Teignmouth. If it's a sense of occasion you're after, though, Muse are never the band to disappoint.

Soon-to-be-released new album, The Resistance, is due to be either the best or worst album of 2009, depending on who you listen to. Signs suggest that it could go either way. Lead single 'Uprising', tonight's opener, is fairly standard Muse on a mediocre day - average, with slightly spacey synths and a chanted chorus which was done far better on 'Knights of Cydonia'. 'United States of Eurasia', too, is pure, Queen-aping silliness. When Matt Bellamy suddenly breaks into a loud wail of "there can only be OOOOONE!" it's hard not to laugh, let alone take it seriously. Okay, I'll be honest - I actually did laugh. Out loud.

Then again, there are also 'Unnatural Selection' (lovely, yet featuring an outro which wouldn't sound out of place coming from Metallica) and 'Undisclosed Desires' ("I would wait a thousand years / just to see you smile again"). So it's not all bad news.

And, of course, there are the classics. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard amateur manglings of the opening riff to 'Plug In Baby', but when done properly, it's simply electrifying. 'Knights of Cydonia', too, is superb - a galloping romp through a surreal space-age spaghetti western, strange and sublime. 'New Born' thunders across the Teignmouth seafront, and 'Hysteria''s serpentine guitar solo sounds nervily incendiary.

Forget their half-baked conspiracy theory politics - Muse have always been at their best when they're getting personal. Which is exactly why tracks like 'Starlight' are, arguably, among their best. They have the capability to make even a huge crowd feel like a communally intimate experience, and that's certainly the case tonight. Mass-handclaps and singalongs may not be most commonly accompanied by massive green lasers, but that's the beauty of Muse when they're on top form.

Yes, they're often overblown, and more than infrequently silly, but it only adds to their awkward charm. Muse are a band who can consistently be relied upon for a live show which strives towards the epic. In Teignmouth terms this is most definitely an event, but for once this isn't a criticism; it feels like an event in the most genuine sense. A homecoming, yes, but to many it's much more than that.

Amusing much?: