Muse + special guests | Review

Muse + support | Review

Biffy Clyro, Nothing But Thieves and Fangclub

Belfast Vital • Wednesday 23 August ’17

By Emma McKinley  • Photography: Tremaine Gregg

Despite dropping the ‘T’ this year, Belfast Vital is back and ready to provide us with yet another great lineup to add to an undeniably exciting summer on the gig scene here in Belfast. Since it’s inception in 2002 it has grown rapidly in popularity from it’s humble beginnings in Botanic Gardens to it’s now fully realised form in Boucher Playing Fields. Vital has become an institution and is now consistently a highlight on the Northern Irish festival calendar due to it’s ability to draw some of the biggest names across many genres throughout the years. This year is no exception to the rule with the Grammy award winning band Muse supported by Biffy Clyro, Nothing But Thieves and Fangclub to open the first night of this two part festival.

Opening powerfully with Inside Joke off their second EP Coma Happy; the Dublin three piece Fangclub show no signs of being intimidated by the magnitude of the acts to follow. Stephen King’s breathy vocals carry catchy melodies over grungy riffs driven by Dara Coleman’s un-abating drums, to deliver a full punchy sound; reminiscent of Nirvana or Fighting With Wire that grabs the crowd’s attention. As they round up the set with the hook laden Bullet Head, King announces the band’s return to Belfast in October which will definitely be worth checking out.

Grey clouds loom overhead, but it doesn’t hinder the crowd gathering down at the front to see Nothing but Thieves. This isn’t the first time this five piece alt-rock band have been in the support slot for Muse on tour; it’s obvious why, as they energetically break into ‘Ban All The Music’. Conor Mason’s incredible precision vocals, even at the higher end of his range, go a long way in giving this band the edge; it makes them stand out as he effortlessly reaches notes Justin Hawkins would be envious of. Even though the rain (inevitably) starts just after they’ve treated us to ‘I’m Not Made by Design’ from their soon to be released album Broken Machine. Mason engages with the damp audience to ensure we’re still with them, and the response confirms that we completely and whole heartedly are. Unfortunately the tempo of the set suffers midway through, as they take it down a notch with ‘Sorry’ and ‘If I Get High’. However, the wavering crowd is swiftly brought back to attention, as they finish strong with another new single ‘Amsterdam’, which has everyone dancing and singing at the top of their lungs.

Scottish three piece Biffy Clyro are no strangers to Belfast. As Simon Neil saunters out on stage with the Johnston brothers James (bass, vocals) and Ben (drums, vocals) it feels like we’re reuniting with old friends when they commence their set with ‘Wolves of Winter’ and cheers erupt from the packed out venue. It’s not too long before Neil is running round the the stage, jumping up on amps, interrupting Living’s a Problem with a wee nod to Roxette’s ‘It Must Have Been Love’ and generally getting up to no good. One minute we’re singing along to the anthemic ‘Biblical’ at the top of our lungs and the next a circle pit opens up just in front for ‘Who’s Got a Match’ and keeps growing through ‘That Golden Rule’. It’s obvious this band is made for live performances and their huge sound and unrelenting energy guarantees not a single song gets lost. Fans peoples  shoulders with hands in the air, there are no cues needed from the band for participation as we all sing along with James and Ben in ‘Many of Horror’. Just before they finish up with ‘Stingin’ Belle’, James reminds us how much Biffy loves playing in Belfast and it’s evident the feeling is mutual as everyone screams “Biffy F*cking Clyro” after an amazing set, that leaves everyone wanting more.

I’ve heard and read all about the spectacle of Muse’s live shows, now I can finally confirm that every single rumour is absolutely true. Nothing can really prepare you for for the moment you become engrossed in an extravaganza of lasers and lights shooting around in darkness; the band emerge on stage and open with their new single ‘Dig Down’. Everything down to Bellamy’s guitar; his jacket adorned in lights, yet their use of visual walls to accompany ‘Drill Sergeant’ leading into ‘Psycho’, demonstrates a greater purpose than brilliant showmanship for the sake of showmanship. It’s an integral aspect of the whole performance that adds weight and clarity to the concepts touched upon in their lyrics. The result? A fully immersive, mind blowing experience that has everyone’s full attention.

Matt Bellamy’s melismatic vocals soaring over the meaty bass provided by Chris Wolstenholme (who’s 53% Irish apparently), matched with the relentless energy of Dominic Howard on drums in Hysteria (including the main riff from AC/DC’s Back in Black riff as an outro), is dirty and gritty with elements of Queen-like glam. Then as Bellamy takes to the piano for ‘The 2nd Law: Isolated System’; we see a completely different, softer electronic side to their music; making it apparent they will always be more dedicated to a concept than any notion of genre. As they move into the frenetic Assassin and their big hit ‘Super Massive Black Hole’, with it’s Manson-esque vocals, everyone is screaming along as confetti explodes and descends upon the crowd. The antics continue with the release of huge white balloons, that can be seen bobbing along at the front of the stage throughout ‘Starlight’ and ‘Time is Running Out’; complete with a nod to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Heartbreaker’ riff on the outro.

As they churn out hit after hit, it’s plain to see why they’ve earned their place amongst the greats in their 20-something year career. Their consistently energetic musicianship, married with their live presence has cemented them as an international name; if ‘Dig Down’ is anything to go by, the new album will be proof that they’re not going anywhere any time soon.

As they re-emerge on stage with ‘Uprising’ for their encore, it’s hard to imagine how they could have any more tricks up their sleeve for a climactic finish. How could anything be more exuberant than everything we’ve already seen or heard? The answer: ‘Knights of Cydonia’ accompanied with fireworks, that can be seen for miles around with all the pyrotechnic trimmings. And why not?

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