It’s taken 18 years but it seems like Biffy Clyro are in danger of becoming the biggest rock band in the UK any day now. With a number one album in the bag, Ayrshire’s finest arrive in Birmingham for the second night of their first arena-filling tour and there is a definite sense of occasion and achievement in the air.
First up though, we’re spoiled with the appearance of City & Colour who bring their blissed-out folk blues to a half-full arena at the far-too-early time of 7:15pm. As thousands of Biffy fans wait in line for merchandise and beers, the Canadians, featuring Alexisonfire’s Dallas Green (hence the City & Colour moniker), give s beautiful performance of tunes from their three studio albums as well as a brilliant new song. Dallas’ voice sounds as stunning as ever and his team of musicians, plucked from various Canadian indie bands, fill the sound out superbly. I would have loved to have heard The Girl, but other than that City & Colour were perfection and the Biffy fans who turned up late missed something truly special.
It’s still only 8:30pm when the headliners appear, beginning with frontman, Simon Neil, wandering casually on stage to stand before a huge white curtain and begin plucking the intro to Different People from the latest album, Opposites. As the song kicks in, the curtain drops, revealing a stunning stage set featuring a huge tree sculpture that rises up impressively above drummer, Ben Johnston’s kit.
It’s a dramatic start and is quickly followed by the brilliant That Golden Rule, with Neil moving to end of one of two walkways before battering out the riffs on his guitar as if he’s trying to exorcise some evil spirit from his instrument. Indeed, it’s often hard to take your eyes off the frontman as he moves about the stage, throwing rock star poses and immersing himself in the music.
Neil’s bandmates, and twin brothers, are no less impressive players. The rhythms are such a major part of many of Biffy’s songs and the brothers are as tight and hard hitting as they get. They’re ably assisted by two session musicians who add extra layers of keyboards and guitar towards the side of the stage.
When Neil dons an acoustic guitar and stands alone under a single spotlight, we get to witness some of the most heartfelt moments of the night, particularly on God & Satan and Machines, both of which illicit sing-alongs from tonight’s crowd.
Where Biffy truly shine though is in the epic, disjointed rockers which allow their uniqueness to really bloom. Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies is a jaw-dropping bombast and earlier songs such as Justboy and A Day Of… remind us how long they’ve been writing truly original rock music.
As I write this review, I’m struggling to find anything to criticize. At times the sound isn’t quite as punchy and full as the songs deserve, but performance-wise, Biffy Clyro seem in their element on a larger stage and have built a setlist to keep even their most hardcore fans more than satisfied.
Many Of Horror is another impressive moment in tonight’s set – the audience hanging on every word of a beautiful song. And The Captain ends the main set in fine style. The three-song encore ends on a spectacular high with the quite majestic Mountains sending everyone back out into the chilly Birmingham night to be met with snowfall. A suitably Scottish-type weather setting to end a very special evening.
Words & Photos – Steve Gerrard
Purchase prints from this gig HERE
1. Different People
2. That Golden Rule
3. Sounds Like Balloons
4. Black Chandelier
5. Modern Magic Formula
8. Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies
10. Victory Over the Sun
11. A Day of…
13. Spanish Radio
14. There’s No Such Thing as a Jaggy Snake
15. God & Satan
16. The Thaw
18. Glitter and Trauma
19. Who’s Got a Match?
20. The Joke’s on Us
21. Many of Horror
22. Picture a Knife Fight
23. The Captain
25. Stingin’ Belle