Muse have proved themselves able festival-eaters for over a decade now, and no sooner had Reading & Leeds recovered from their 2006 and 2011 triumphs they’ve come back again to thoroughly curb-stomp all witnessing with their expected arsenal of huge riffs, treasured anthems, and enough lights and lasers to spell out a giant FUCK OFF in the sky.

It’s all the more jarring, then, when such a surely sure-footed act like Muse make an intolerable backfire: they open the set, as they have for the current batch of festival dates, with new-ish single Dig Down. The track would be a perfectly pleasant curio buried near the end of the set, but stands in the way of several songs Muse could easily deploy as a better opener, y’know, in order to make an entrance. Think of their near-religious Wembley Stadium dates ten (!) years ago, Knights of Cydonia blowing the roof off. Think of the DronesPsycho intro for the recent arena treks. Hell, cast your mind and ears back to The 2nd Law‘s stage show opener – the title track – with its dramatic, unsettling way of opening the gig. It’s an EVENT, for chrissakes.

No sooner do Muse get Dig Down going, they boot it cleanly aside with Psycho, kicking several thousand people up the arse at once and inciting mass pogo-ing. It feels churlish in the extreme to spend a whole paragraph whinging (and we’ve only got to the second song), but again, Muse have been doing stadiums and festivals for over a decade now, and missteps are all the more glaringly obvious in the context of a usually-perfect show.

Speaking of which, the next hour and a half is typically whiled away with a grinning, spirited sprint-through of almost every greatest hit you could want, including a rare airing of Stockholm Syndrome early in the set, nestled with Plug in Baby and Hysteria. As if Muse weren’t obviously confident enough, they spunk several Big Guns over the crowd unnervingly early on and Leeds is already won over.

Matt Bellamy farting into people’s faces. Pic: ANDY FORD (with apologies)

In the first of several nods towards their much earlier days, Yes Please is jammed and the venerable Showbiz is plucked from days scarily far into the past, the guitar riff to Ashamed providing an outro. In the middle, however, is Matt Bellamy’s current favourite piss-break of choice – The 2nd Law: Isolated System, where the rest of the band do their Mike Oldfield thing.

The set is back on track with surefire winner Supermassive Black Hole, now 11 years old – yet the band actually look younger than they did in their triumphant 2006 Reading & Leeds headline slot, when the likes of Supermassive and Starlight were the new guys. Mercy, having survived the inevitable new song cull when the band moves from the promotional arena tour to the festivals, comes resplendent with power chords, a city-levelling chorus and the usual pyro/ticker-tape bonanza.

After a session of Munich Jam, bassist Chris Wolstenholme visibly enjoying one of his few moments when all eyes aren’t on Bellamy, Madness and Dead Inside tell alternating tales of woes in love, Bellamy ever the gifted narrator. In another inexplicable move, Prelude is played – but instead of leading into Survival as it does on The 2nd Law, Bellamy commands all hands to rise for the mass clapalong of StarlightTime is Running Out marks its usual spot in the set, then Take a Bow closes the main chunk of it – the latter being another acceptable track, but also one that stands in the place of, say, Citizen Erased or something else more mouth-watering or capable of whipping up the crowd.

Muse finish what appears to be their millionth Big Triumphant Show with a one-two punch of Uprising, always anthemic if less interesting than a great deal of their catalogue, and Knights of Cydonia – as usual, an entire gig in itself.

As Muse continue to flatten as many stadiums and festivals as possible with their retina-wrecking, note-perfect live show, each one becomes less of an event in itself as one gets slightly too accustomed to their sky-clawing standards. Yet, eleven years after they stepped up to stadiums and more festivals (also remembering 2004’s Glastonbury headline set), it’s truer than ever that just another Muse show equals almost any other band at their very best.

Now consider this: they might not even be at their peak yet.

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