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Biffy Clyro really are a bizarre band, with lyrics ranging from incest (Born On A Horse ‘I’ve never had a lover who’s my sister or my brother before’) to being about popping bubbles (the song is called ‘Bubbles’ funnily enough). However, they’ve built a reputation in the UK of being a tight live band, working up enough sweat to maintain an African country for several years at every show. It’s only within the last year or so that they’ve gained this reputation though, previously being a bit of an underground sensation, leading a large cult following but somehow avoiding the media glare.
However, the release of their album, Only Revolutions, in 2009 kick started their mainstream career, starting with a trickle of UK festival bookings, leading to more tours, bigger tours, and bigger festivals, flinging them higher and higher, all while maintaining the oddness that personified them during their early years. This oddness, is perhaps personified in the song, ‘There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake’, a freakish concoction of fiddly, schizophrenic guitars, frantic, maniacal drumming and savage, animalistic yells, all being broken up occasionally by melodic singing. It really is a strange song, but it is a demonstration of Biffy’s song writing ability. It does represent an older sound of Biffy Clyro though, because their latest release titled “Only Revolutions” has clearly been made under a certain level of persuasion from their marketing manager, keen for them to become a more main stream band. Although their songs are still as wonderfully brilliant as before, proudly displaying names like ‘Cloud of Stink’ ‘Booooom, Blast & Ruin’ that completely contrast the complex, dazzlingly good song writing for all the songs. However, unlike before, these songs began to get radio plays, especially the acoustic masterpiece ‘God & Satan’, much to the annoyance of some Biffy fans. However, in my opinion, it was all for the best, because it led to the fantastic set of arena shows, one of which I attended.
The blizzard that greeted me upon getting off the train made me question my decision to attend a concert in December (although it turned out to not be the snowiest gig I’d ever been to), but I wasn’t going to miss Biffy Clyro for any amount of snow. The first support band, Holy State, were wholly average. Although not anything to dislike, they were neither outstanding, perhaps struggling on such a big stage, especially for a band that hadn’t even released a debut album yet.
Next up were The Futureheads, a seasoned band with 4 albums, and 11 years together under their belts. They were the opposite of Holy State, but however remain at a similar level in terms of popularity. Although their music was more well known (with songs like Hounds of Love garnering some sing-a-long, no matter how encouraged), they are more of a one hit wonder band, that band that you don’t know the name of but know the song. Most of the 11,000 people in the crowd were of this state of mind and the Futureheads left, probably having gained 1,000 more iTunes sales but no more true fans.
Then at 9pm, the lights dimmed for the 3rd time that evening, and the unmistakeable stomping of feet pounded over the PA and sails descended from the masts that framed the stage. Upon these sails were thousands of soldiers, stamping in time to the beat. Then as the beat pounded louder and louder, 3 silhouettes took to the stage, Biffy Clyro. Then as the familiar cry of WOO thundered throughout the room, the entire venue exploded. It signalled the start of a mammoth night, 25 songs long, spanning their entire album catalogue, with tunes such as the infamous …Jaggy Snake, Mountains, 9/15ths, Living Is A Problem, Many of Horror and Saturday Superhouse along with 3 acoustic songs, providing the complete, uncompromising Biffy Clyro experience.
Machines, the final acoustic song, was a moving, passionate performance, with a canopy of light bulbs descending around Simon Neil and his acoustic guitar. Interaction with the crowd was kept to a minimum by the introvert band, often looking like they were about to have emotional breakdowns, lank, sweaty hair drooped over their faces. Perhaps the highlight of the night was the first and last time anyone in that crowd will ever mosh to an orchestra, during That Golden Rules breakdown, consisting of computer generated orchestra that will no doubt one day be brought to life.
At one point, during the performance of Born On A Horse, the sails that draped the background were transformed into an undulating, trippy chessboard, enhanced further by the flickering synth beats that lace the song, complementing the peculiar nature of the lyrics. Overall, they put on a truly outstanding show. Although it was criticised by some hardcore Biffy fans who hate to see them in such settings, if they fail to see it as a good thing for the band, they probably aren’t the kind of fans such a fantastic band should want.