x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

In total communion

Muse plays a riveting set at the Du Arena.

Matt Bellamy of Muse performing at Yas Arena in Abu Dhabi. Delores Johnson / The National
Matt Bellamy of Muse performing at Yas Arena in Abu Dhabi. Delores Johnson / The National

The words “grandiose” and “futuristic” are not hip terms in the current rock climate.

The near decade-long garage rock trend seems to be making way now for even more minimalist compositions. But no one sent that memo to the English rockers Muse.

The British trio have their musical dial set 30 years forward rather than back, with mind-bending albums mixing a variety of sonic out-there-ness, from progressive and space rock to baroque classical music.

Augmenting Muse’s ambition is a spectacular light and stage show adding an extra, hallucinatory element to the proceedings.

While they didn’t bring the full live experience to the du Arena on Saturday – alas, the robots and acrobats stayed home – there were still enough whizz-bang visuals to dazzle the crowd.

After an opening montage featuring a news reporter babbling on about curtailing the energy crisis over a frenzied montage of stockbrokers and dams breaking, the group silently walked on stage and launched into the instrumental Unsustainable.

It was a brazen performance: the singer and guitarist Matthew Bellamy coaxing an arresting melody from feedback and effects pedals, while Christopher Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard supplied a rattling dub-inspired rhythm ­section.

The riff-laden follow-up Supremacy was supported by visuals of shattering glass. Bellamy introduced his choirboy voice over military drums before going all Freddie Mercury with a blinding falsetto in the chorus.

The strutting Supermassive Black Hole had the crowd dancing along before the first mass sing­along ­arrived with the cathartic ­Hysteria.

The trio never hid their Queen worship; Panic Station is basically a reworked version of Another One Bites the Dust with Wolstenholme kicking it off with funky slap-bass lines similar to the classic.

Monty Jam had Bellamy beginning on piano before the song gradually swelled into a Bohemian Rhapsody vocal breakdown.

On the album, it all sounds a bit bonkers but its drama is best appreciated live onstage with the explosions of smoke cannons.

The encore featured the concert highlight: the affecting Starlight. It packed an extra potency due to its relative simplicity. Its Coldplay-like chorus had the crowd in total communion with the band as opposed to being riveted observers.