For a band who once seemed an unlikely commercial prospect, Biffy Clyro have adjusted to arena tours with easy conviction. Even listening to early recordings it’s as if they expected their music to fill places like the O2 long before they managed to achieve such standing. What’s more, judging by the reactions of the crowd, the fans are most definitely making the most of the new spaces they are allowed to play in. Which, according to some including frontman Simon Neil, is somewhat of a miracle that their fans even want to come out to play at all.
Speaking after their song ‘Many Of Horror’ was treated to some glittery karaoke sonic airbrushing at the hands of an X-Factor winner, Neil was moved to worry that some of the fans might not forgive the band. Not that Biffy Clyro had anything to do with the re-release, but for a band who so delicately skip between mainstream and underground followings, association with such an enterprise could see them lose a considerable amount of that one, elusive currency; credibility. But thankfully his concerns were unfounded and the band have gone on to much bigger and better things with or without the help of music’s answer to franchising.
Arriving onstage at around 8.30 to a surging and throbbing mass with ‘Different People’ (already stripped to the waist) the band, the song and the crowd burst into life within seconds. And for a band so keen to wear as few items of clothing as possible, the huge model of a human nervous system replete with throbbing organs seems a perfect choice. If there’s one band who can be both raucous and emotive at the same time it is Kilmarnock’s finest: a band who truly wear their musical hearts on their sleeves.
But perhaps Biffy Clyro’s most powerful live weapon is their use of dynamics, rather than pathos, to generate responses from the crowd and not in a cheesy or cack-handed way. They manage to include the right level of fist-pumping fodder and reflective ‘quiet’ in their songs to ensure the crowd generally don’t need to be coaxed into either. Just watching them go from subdued to all-out riotous is nothing short of spectacular and ads something to the shows which clearly feeds the band in some way. Perhaps this is true perpetual motion, or just very shrewd songwriting. ‘That Golden Rule’, ‘Justboy’ and ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’ providing some further moments of excitement for those watching the crowd as much as the band.
As the band barrel their way through the set, Neil draped in a tricolour at one point, they prove once again to be a precise, fierce and as tightly wound as you would expect after eleven years and six studio albums. ‘Many Of Horror’ comes and goes and gets the response it deserves, but for the majority of the crowd who make their presence felt every bit as much as the band the night was is much a triumph as an exercise in affection. Neil speaks more than once about how valuable the band’s fans are to them and even the one person overheard remarking on how they had “never heard of him other than the X-Factor song…” followed by an incredulous “what, Biffy Clyro is a band?” cab not have left without seeing some proper respect and between a band and their following – he old-guard punks mixing it with young pretenders all in the name of mutual appreciation. Finishing a fine set with ‘Mountains’ (and a few in-vain choruses of “Mon the Biff” from the crowd), more of the band’s mature musical understanding is most definitely welcomed.
Photo: Debbie Hickey (see more here).