Whoa, stadium gig! And in this case, the biggest stadium of them all. A veritable modern day Colosseum, or perhaps a great temple built to honour advertising and football – Wembley Stadium. Cunningly, when I'd bought my ticket from eBay I'd neglected to ask where all the others were going to be, and so instead of being on ground level in the arena, I had to trek around to door X-B-51(northwest) then scale 16 escalators in order to find my place in block 512, taking care to dodge bodies keeling over due to thin oxygen conditions and, later, malnutrition due to mystery hotdogs and the coloured-but-not-flavoured soda water they sold under the guise of “Coke”.
So anyway, to bang on about the stadium a bit more – it's completely soulless. Partially I guess is cos it's brand new, but it's just all so… CORPORATE! The place is crawling with people in Wembley uniforms – such as staircase stewards, cuisine team, door stewards, and then just stewards – who are effectively hall monitors & whose purpose is to make sure you don't stop moving or go where you're not meant to. I'll bet they've got toilet stewards as well, who sell you a hand towel and a chupa chup for 15 quid.
Right so anyway I'm up the top dodging albatrosses, and I get a phonecall from Paul & Liz & Emma & HC & co, asking if I can see them. Have you ever been on holiday to the US and have someone say “Oh you're from Australia? I have a friend in Sydney – you might know them!”? This is the league of probability we're talking about here. “We're the ones jumping up and down and waving!”.
Excuse the lengthy preamble, but there's not much I can actually say about the gig itself – yet again, it was a case of me going along to see a band whose music I was unfamiliar with, and found myself amid a crowd of fervent fans. As with my Dream Theater gig experience, it was like being in a vast church where everyone's enthusiastically singing the hymns, and there's me trying to surreptitiously yet urgently get a look at a hymnsheet (except I wasn't in the front row this time).
We missed openers Rodrigo Y Gabriela (described to me as “Mexican Metallica covers, among other things”), and ploughed straight into Dirty Pretty Things. Not quite what I was hoping for – I must've mistaken them for someone else – they seemed to be a reasonably capable but boring pub band, thrust into an arena setting. It's a good job they fell victim to Support Act Sound Syndrome, otherwise I'd probably have had to endure a load of second-rate poetry & musical broadsides at trying to capture “the new sound”.
Following them, The Streets came on – I'm still not sure if that's one guy, or a group – and immediately wished that he/they would piss off & get Dirty Pretty Things back on, cos at least they were musical. I'd heard bits off Original Pirate Material, and thought they were OK, but whatever the hell was going on in Wembley Stadium that day was just nonsense. Periodically the little man holding the microphone would sing to the crowd in his best Freddy Mercuryesque voice “All we hear is…”, hoping he had the charisma to entice the crowd to respond: “Radio Gaga”. This was not the case, and the more he did it, the more I thought he was a sad twat. He seemed more interested in lapping up the fact he was playing to Wembley Stadium (by this point, almost 30% full) than putting on anything that could have been misconstrued as “entertainment”. With this unremarkable procession of preparatory acts, I was feeling distinctly unenthusiastic about Muse.
My reservations proved completely unfounded, which I guess stands to reason – a crap band's not going to book Wembley Stadium for a gig, and this gig was a sellout. The style of music was vastly different to what I was expecting, as the primary recommendation had come from Emma – her taste in music tends toward lo-fi indie stuff, and away from the complex compositions, musical intricacy and general musicality of the sort of thing that I like. Makes you wonder what I was doing taking a gig tip from her, really. Well in this case I'm happy to report that the needle was well over toward the “post rock guitar wank” section of the dial.
What a hell of a show. I think I'd be accurate in saying that as a gig it actually got close to approaching a Pink Floyd concert (although the music wasn't nearly as kickarse, obviously). The band made the best stage entrance ever – rising up out of the middle of the arena amid an explosion of flying confetti-like stuff, then charging straight up the middle of the arena flanked by an escort of people wearing enviro-suits.
I don't know the names of any of their songs, so we'll assume they played all the good ones. When it got to the end of the main set they exited the stage, as is customary, and a slab of punters took their cue to leave. We all know that there's always an encore, but clearly some people value not getting caught up in traffic over watching the entire performance that they've paid to see. The encore rocked out, and the crowd were still hungry for more, so as a further slab departed (figuring that was the end of the encore) the band came back on for a second encore – this time during the final song, huge weather balloons were pushed out into the crowd and bounced around like giant bach balls, which was fun from where I was sitting. That encore finished and people started getting up to go, but the trouble with a venue that size is it's not practical for everyone to leave at once, and people were still keen for more. I was surprised then that a third encore happened, and you could tell that it had been planned all along, because to accompany the penultimate song 2 massive balloons lifted off with dancers suspended underneath each, and as the band played the dancers twirled and spun like lycra-clad sea monkeys. Bloody fantastic stuff. I hope the people who left before the first encore didn't have any trouble finding their cars or anything, cos that'd be a real pain in the ass.