The end of March and the beginning of April was a very busy time for me. Under pressure to organise some work experience for my course, I had something arranged only to see that fall through. A frantic day of sending emails off to various places looked to have led nowhere when most ignored and two rejected me. Fortunately, The Cricketer, who had initially rejected me, got back to say they were happy to have me on board.
Off I went to London, to experience 2 weeks unlike any I have had before. The outcome was that I got something printed in their magazine (go buy it!), but more importantly, I’d had a very good time. In April, I headed over to Manchester to look after my Mum’s cats while she was in NY and Washington and required that time to catch up on my Easter Holiday work, which I couldn’t do while in London.
It’s not like it stops there either, for this month is busy, busy, busy. The vast majority of my university work is due in on the 13th May, and then on the 14th I am the best man for my good friend Josh on his wedding day. With preparation, such as the speech (written – just needs practising and amending), to do for that – it’s unlikely I’ll be writing many blogs. I apologise sincerely for that, and promise to get back on the wagon once the wedding, and uni, is over.
Arranging the finer details of work experience had been tricky for me due to two very crucial commitments. I didn’t want to shout about it, because most people would say these shouldn’t be priorities but for me, they were absolutely key.
They were two gigs.
One, on the 31st March, at the Royal Albert Hall. The other, on the 8th April, at Manchester Arena. They were my two favourite bands, and there was no way in hell I was missing out on the chance to see Chvrches or Muse.
The Royal Albert Hall has always been the one venue I’ve wanted to experience a gig. I saw Chvrches were playing there just after we saw them in Birmingham and immediately wanted to go. I knew, even then, that the gig would be special – I knew it would tick a lot of boxes from my gig “bucket list”. I told Emma, and she pretended to forget about it while secretly letting her parents know, who very kindly bought us tickets as a Christmas present (thanks Mike and Suzy – seriously, thank you!).
It was everything I expected.
No, it was better than I expected.
For a start, while we usually stand, sitting was a welcome relief after a knackering day (week and a half) of work experience. But usual sitting does not compare to an almost private box on the second tier of the Royal Albert Hall. You can almost feel the moments of history throughout time that had taken place within those walls. And all from a comfy seat with a great view!
The sound was better than I expected, sometimes sound can be lost in arenas, but here it was confined, and then amplified into something special.
Of course, it helps that Chvrches are absolute masters of gigs.
They sound great. They look great too, they look like a band ready to explode upon the world as leaders in their field and headliners of festivals, and hopefully even stadiums. But, they also feel relaxed. This didn’t scare them; it didn’t even faze the three of them. They made the odd comment about how big it was, but they were usually followed by a very relaxed exchange, almost a conversation, with the audience. Lauren has a great sense of the right words to say at the right times to make a crowd laugh. She controls the arenas well, while still mesmerising them with her, and her bands, music.
The more I see Chvrches, the more I hear from them, the more I love them. Yes, the setlist was almost identical to the one we had seen at the O2 (with the welcome addition of High Enough), but that didn’t matter – the gig, the venue and the atmosphere was special enough for this to be better in every regard.
There was only one regret. And that was that we weren’t standing for Clearest Blue.
It’s one of my biggest peeves that I always get nervous before gigs. I’ve no idea why, and I always always enjoy myself, yet in the immediate run up I can’t help but feel sick and not want to go.
It was worse than usual on the 8th April. Why? Well, on the surface at least, I should have been fine. We were off to see Muse, and for me it was my fifth time. I know just how good Muse are live, I know they are the single greatest live band on the planet and I knew I was going to have a great night.
However, it was Emma’s first Muse gig. For almost three years now, she’s listened to me badger on about how good they are live that it struck me she might think I was over exaggerating. And I got worried that she’d hate it, and never want to see them again. Sure, it’s irrational – especially when you consider how good it ended up being – but I can’t help it!
We were standing this time, and Muse boasting a 360 stage meant that we were able to get very close to the front. I’d love to write at some point about the other times I’ve seen Muse – and maybe this summer I can get around to it – but as a quick spoiler, you don’t go to see Muse purely for the music. The fact the music is better than anyone else’s is a bonus, but you go see them for the set design, the lighting and the visuals. I’ve seen them play on movable platforms, on “spaceships”, inside pyramids and with massive explosions at seemingly every chord. Each gig comes with it a different stage, each one better than the previous. This was no exception.
I usually have a problem with the sound at the Manchester Arena. It’s almost too big to sound good in, yet from the moment the support band started playing (Nothing But Thieves – an excellent opening act) I knew that wouldn’t be a factor.
Muse are always good, but they were about as good as I’ve ever seen them that night. I’d seen every song live, except the new ones, but that didn’t matter. I’d only seen Bliss once. And Bliss should be played at every gig they do – it’s easily their best song live (a ridiculously hard statement). My only slight criticisms would be the continued presence of Madness and Feeling Good, however that’s only because I’ve seen them multiple times. For newbies, like Emma, they still warrant a good reception.
Muse demand respect live. Everything they do is so outrageously good. Emma loved it, drenched in sweat and just saying “wow, wow” as we left. Any band wanting to make it in today’s climate, just watch how Muse play gigs. Muse have never had a number 1 single, and haven’t had a top 5 hit for a decade, yet set an attendance record at the O2 in London and sold out two nights in Manchester. The true definition of a live band.
Muse and Chvrches will always be worth seeing live. Both of them gig in different ways (Chvrches are more down with the crowd, Muse are more about the show), but both of them do it in fantastic ways. Muse should go on a stadium tour next summer, and I wouldn’t be totally surprised if Chvrches aren’t headlining that level by the end of their career – their sound would suit it. I say this a lot, and I realise these reviews are always positive, but if you ever get the chance to see either of them live, take it and run with it. You can’t help but be blown away by both.