Last Chance To Lose Control (Godfatherecords G.R. 687)
Reading Festival, Little John’s Farm, Reading, UK – 28 August, 2011
New Born, Bliss, Plug In Baby, Uprising, Supermassive Black Hole, Hysteria, Stockholm Syndrome, Helsinki Jam, Undisclosed Desires, Resistance, Starlight, Time Is Running Out, Knights Of Cydonia
Muse celebrated the tenth anniversary of the release of their second album Origin Of Symmetry by performing it in its entirety at the twin festivals in Leeds and Reading on 26 and 28 August 2011 respectively. Part of the Reading show was broadcast on BBC television and that broadcast forms the basis of Godfather’s latest Muse CD. At each of the two shows Muse began with the complete album performance followed by a selection of crowd pleasing numbers. Some may doubt whether Origin Of Symmetry is an accomplished enough album to warrant a complete performance. Peter Smith, writing on the Spend Matters UK/Europe website, argues: “While playing all of Origin Of Symmetry was probably not what the crowd would have chosen, the amazing light show kept our interest through some of the less enthralling parts of that album. But having finished that, it was their greatest hits that really got the crowd going – Black Holes [sic], Knights of Cydonia etc.” Emma Johnston, writing in Prog magazine, calls the band’s decision to play the whole album “a daring one – for every Plug In Baby and Feeling Good there’s filler like Darkshines.” Unfortunately, due to the partial nature of the broadcast, and therefore of this release, listeners will be unable to formulate their own opinions on the matter; indeed, only three songs from the album – New Born, Bliss and Plug In Baby – are included here, whereas the second section of the concert appears in full.
As the CD begins we hear a brief fragment of the intro, Tom Waits’ What’s He Building? from the album Mule Variations. We only hear a few seconds of Waits’ gruff voice before Muse plays the opening number, New Born, which is greeted by cheering, screaming and clapping from the audience. After the quiet opening section, the main part of the song explodes into life, coinciding with the raising of the curtain that the band had been behind during the early part of the song. The second number, listed as “Bliss (extended)” on Muse’s official website and featuring an extended instrumental outro showcasing Bellamy’s virtuosity on guitar, maintains the excitement before Plug In Baby completes the trio of Origin Of Symmetry numbers featured on this release. After Bellamy’s dissonant guitar intro, the song has members of the audience in raptures as they sing along to what Guardian writer Mark Beaumont calls, “arguably the best rock song of the century so far.”
The second part of the show has its own intro in the form of, to give the full title found on Muse’s website, “Stadium Siren/We Are the Universe (intro music).” We initially hear the threatening sounds of air raid sirens and then semi-audible voices issuing what are quite possibly, judging by the intonation, dire warnings to humankind; certainly there are references to rioting and destruction. This intro comes over as an entirely appropriate prelude to the science-fiction-meets-glam rock of what the band’s website refers to as, “Uprising (riff version).” This is succeeded by the seductive and sinuous Supermassive Black Hole, with its twisting bass and falsetto vocals.
Next comes what the band’s site lists as, “Interlude + Hysteria + Sweet Child O’ Mine Riff + Back In Black Outro.” The brief Interlude is described by Musewiki as follows: “Distorted instrumental interlude…The interlude samples the chord progression of the popular piece ‘Adagio for Strings’, by American composer Samuel Barber, on guitar with an extremely heavy fuzz effect.” It is difficult, however, to discern anything of Barber in Interlude, which is followed by a splendidly energetic version of Hysteria itself, and the whole confection is concluded in thunderous style by the Sweet Child O’ Mine riff (a song from Guns N’ Roses’ debut album Appetite For Destruction) and the Back In Black Outro (the title song from the AC/DC album). As Musewiki points out of the latter, “the outro riff has frequently been played as an outro to Hysteria.”
More riffing bookends what is officially described as, “Bored riff + My Own Summer (Shove It) riff + Stockholm Syndrome + Negative Creep riff + Endless Nameless riff.” Bored and My Own Summer (Shove It) are Deftones numbers from Adrenaline and Around The Fur, and the band is namechecked by Bellamy; Negative Creep and Endless Nameless are, of course, Nirvana songs, from Bleach and Nevermind respectively. These riffs effectively enhance an intense version of Stockholm Syndrome itself.
Then comes Helsinki Jam, a two-and-a-half-minute piece played by bassist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard, and referred to in Godfather’s track listing as “Drum And Bass (‘Helsinki Jam’).” Of this, Musewiki states: “Dubbed by the fans after its first appearance on the first gig of The Resistance tour in Helsinki, the jam was a reoccurring drum and bass jam on The Resistance tour. It is slightly similar to Osaka Jam and is often played before Undisclosed Desires…The jam is notable as the Warner/Chappell Music song catalogue adopted the fan given ‘Helsinki Jam’ as the official title.”
Next comes the restrained,dreamy opening of the darkly sinuous Undisclosed Desires, with its echoes of Depeche Mode, which Bellamy has stated is, “about love and the dark secrets lovers share.” Barber’s Adagio emerges again in “Adagio for Strings snippet + Resistance.” The sublime Adagio was arranged by Barber for string orchestra in 1936 from the second movement of his String Quartet, Op. 11, written earlier in the year. ( His 1967 transcription of the piece for eight-part choir, as a setting of the Agnus Dei, is also well worth hearing.) Resistance is followed by the lighter, melodious Starlight and then the audience sings and claps along during House of the Rising Sun, which serves as an introduction to Time Is Running Out. The enthusiastic singing continues during a tremendous version of the song itself. This three-part package then delves into Jimi Hendrix material with the concluding Power of Soul riff. Chris Wolstenholme’s harmonica is utilized, amidst great cheers, for Ennio Morricone’s Man with a Harmonica, which acts an an atmospheric introduction to a performance of Knights of Cydonia, which the band fairly gallops through to end the show in triumphant style.
Responses to Muse’s performance have been highly positive. Sarah Bull’s article on the Daily Mail website is headlined, “Feeling Good! Muse leave fans raving,” and she points out that, “Muse tonight received rave reviews from fans on Twitter after closing the Reading Festival…fans were quick to congratulate the boys on their perfomance.” Matt Miles, writing on the Virtual Festivals website, states that, “Muse’s phenomenal set [was]…truly awesome…they exude[d] energy and power throughout the set…an epic performance.” Despite his reservations about the wisdom of playing the complete Origin Of Symmetry, Smith agrees, contending that, “Muse put on a show worthy of the final day headliners.” Johnson, who also doubts the wisdom of the complete album performance, writes of Muse and fellow Reading performers Elbow that the event was, “brought to a close by two bands at the very peak of their powers,” and goes on to refer to Muse’s performance as, “utterly thrilling.” Emma McLachlan points out on the Gigwise website that, “Muse’s two-hour set closed the fesival in style…Muse always triumph at this kind of event.” Such triumphs are perhaps unsurprising. As a writer on the Music Blog of The Guardian writes, Muse do tend to put on “a magnificently preposterous spectacle” to accompany their “bonkers anthems about the end of the world.”
As with Tear Down The Walls, Godfather’s release of the band’s complete 2010 Glastonbury performance (already reviewed), Last Chance To Lose Control is sourced from the BBC’s television broadcast. Of the sound quality of the previous release, I wrote: “It has good dynamics with a nice, punchy feel and it is most enjoyable to listen to, especially when played at high volume. Though it inevitably lacks a little of the sharpness one would find in a radio broadcast, it is very impressive indeed for a TV-sourced recording.” Very much the same could be said of the sound quality of this release.
The sourcing from BBC 3 television is, however, the major problem here. As stated above, this is not the complete show, a particularly problematic situation for a release featuring a complete album performance. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that only three songs here are from Origin Of Symmetry, undermining the entire rationale of the concert.
Fans on the message boards of the band’s official website and of Muselive were incensed, initially lambasting the BBC. However, the decision was then revealed to have been the band’s, seemingly due to concerns about playing rarely performed songs. “They just said that Muse ‘didn’t feel comfortable’ having a lot of their OoS songs being broadcast because they hadn’t played them live in so long,”writes one incredulous Muselive poster. A poster on the band’s site quotes the Musewiki website as follows: “Wolstenholme claimed that five songs which hadn’t been performed for a long time were causing the trio to worry, including Darkshines and Screenager.”
A fan who sent a complaint to the BBC reproduced the response on the Muselive website, and this confirms that responsibility lies with the band: “When the band first conceived the idea of performing the album ‘Origin of Symmetry’ at the festival, it was purely for the audience at the festival and not for a wider audience on television. We were delighted to subsequently agree with them to broadcasting three songs from that part of the performance, but unfortunately the BBC couldn’t air any more contractually…I appreciate it can be disappointing and frustrating when you don’t get the whole of a show you were looking forward to but we have to respect the wishes of the band in these cases.”
This CD, which is housed in Godfather’s usual tri-fold sleeve featuring numerous onstage photographs, is, due to its incompleteness, an obviously flawed artefact, though the label is, of course, as blameless as the BBC. One must presume that the BBC would have broadcast the whole show if allowed to do so by the band, and that Godfather’s release would, in consequence, have been similarly complete. After all, Godfather’s other BBC-sourced Muse set contains, as mentioned above, the entire show. I am sure Muse collectors would have wanted the show in its entirety, especially as it contained a complete album performance. Nonetheless, the harnessing of the three best songs from Origin Of Symmetry to the band’s “greatest hits,” produces, especially with the band in full-on festival mode, a breathless roller coaster ride that is tremendously exciting to listen to. Consequently, a hugely enjoyable performance, fine sound and attractive packaging make this a release which will bring much pleasure along with inevitable and entirely understandable disappointment.