After the football stadium at Ashton Gate had been redeveloped, they decided to start hosting big concerts again – they’ve done it in the past with such cutting-edge acts as Meat Loaf, Elton John and The Who, but this year they upped their game somewhat by hosting 4 concerts in consecutive weeks.
First up was Rod Stewart (a safe retro act), then Take That and finishing with The Spice Girls – Rod The Mod is OK but none of these appealed. The third show though – Muse. They’d only gone and booked one of the top live acts in the world!
I don’t actually know that much of their music – I first heard them when their third album Absolution came out (2003) and loved that, and also listened to Black Holes and Revelations quite a lot, but I haven’t heard anything from the next 4! I did see them on the TV coverage of Glastonbury in 2016, and we also saw a cinema broadcast of their Drones tour last year – that looked and sounded fantastic.
So when this Bristol show was announced, I was definitely going to go – the stadium is about 20 minutes walk from where I work. I’n not a great fan of stadium shows, and the only ones I’ve been to have been Springsteen shows (4 so far) but when it’s so local then
I got to the stadium perfectly timed to see Tom Morello come on – the Rage Against The Machine guitarist meaning I’ve now seen all three E Street Band guitarists play solo – Morello did a tour while Steve Van Zandt was filming Lillyhammer.
He’s a superb guitarist, very different to anyone else I’ve seen – lots of effects and tricks. His set was a bit odd though – the first song was purely with a backing track, and most of the rest was with a drummer and bassist/keyboards but with pre-recorded vocals from a variety of people.
He did sing one song – his cover of Springsteen’s The Ghost of Tom Joad (which did a lot to get him the E Street Band gig).
He finished with what he described as “a traditional folk song” – RATM’s Killing In The Name. But performed with no singer. He brought on a group of activists from Acorn, a Bristol activist group for tenants’ rights, to sing backing vocals (he does this in each city he’s playing in) but no-one actually sang – just the crowd. Odd, but mildly entertaining to sing “F**k you” out loud in public! YouTube clip here.
And so on to the main event – the stage looked impressive, with a vast amount of metalwork towering above the Ashton Gate stands and filling most of one end with a vast screen.
As well as the main stage, there was also a small extra stage at the end of the catwalk, and not too far from me. About 15 minutes before the show I noticed two roadies putting a sheet of material over the extra stage for some reason. I idly wondered whether Matt Bellamy might come out from there, and as it turned out he did – appearing on a riser in the middle of the trombone-wielding dancers.
Dancers? At a rock gig? What is the world coming to! But I have to say they were really well drilled and impressively synchronised. They appeared at various times and really did add something to the show, whether brandishing trombones, light-sticks or smoke guns!
Perhaps their most impressive appearance was during “Break It To Me”, where half a dozen of them moved up and down the screen in sync with the visuals.
The music was great, even if I didn’t know most of the songs – they have a huge sound from 3 people (plus someone on supplementary guitar and keyboards), and the quality of the sound was superb. Their music is very heavily based on the the bass sound, and some of the bass was astonishing – proper trouser-flapping stuff, with a couple of bursts that bring the phrase “weapons grade bass” to mind – the “Close Encounters” intro to “Supermassive Black Hole” being a case in point.
The light show came more to the fore as the sun went down, and it was as spectacular as I’d hoped – lasers, the whole works. Combined with the hugely impressive visuals on the screen, it was quite a show.
I’m afraid I don’t even know which song it was, but at one point they fired off masses of confetti and streamers (plastic, tut), absolutely filling the stadium – hugely impressive!
While I do often take a few photos at gigs, I’m really not one for video but I have to admit to having taken a few clips this time, and I’m actually pleasantly surprised at how well the sound has come out – for some reason I can’t upload them to the blog directly so I’ve had to use YouTube, which is why they don’t look as good as they could.
There are some decent clips of the show here.