It feels like ages since I've seen Biffy Clyro. It's not, just a couple of months ago I journeyed all the way up to Edinburgh to see them. That's the sort of thing that you feel compelled to do when you're in love with a band. It's the sort of thing that the majority of people can't understand but for me following the fortunes of Biffy Clyro is just as important, more so if I'm going to be fully honest, as following the fortunes of my favourite sports teams. It's with a mix of pleasure and trepidation that I've watched over the past couple of years as Biffy have gone from the underground to firm fixtures in the Radio 1 bigtime. The pleasure comes from the three band members (singer/guitarist Simon Neil, bassist James Johnston and drummer Ben Johnston) now being in a position where, financially, they are set to continue with the job that they love doing for a reasonable time to come. Before the release of 2007's breakthrough "Puzzle" the Johnston twins were road digging to make ends meet. The trepidation...you'll see where that comes from later...
Tonight, 24th October 2009, sees the Southampton Guildhall comfortably sold out and a rabid crowd awaits the arrival onstage of Biffy Clyro, who in the last year have had two top 10 singles and therefore significantly expanded their fanbase. The crowd is an interesting mix ranging from those who are genuine music lovers in their obscure band t-shirts (Karnivool tonight for me, brilliant Tad t-shirt for someone else) to NME influenced scene kids in checked shirts of the least grunge variety to casual Radio 1 listeners who think Biffy's #5 single "Mountains" is the best thing since the last Coldplay mega single. First support act Tellison are not well known amongst the diverse crowd but their slightly more complex than average indie with plenty of added 'woah-oh-oh-ba-ba-da-la-ing' seems popular enough.
Pulled Apart By Horses are a different proposition entirely. They make as much of a racket with their instruments as they possibly could and their short scream filled exercises in noises shock as many people as they impress tonight for sure. Singer Tom Hudson gets up close and personal with the crowd as early as the second song while guitarist James Brown showcases his love for jumping off tall amplifiers. While only "I Punched A Lion In The Throat" and "E=MC Hammer" are truly memorable there's no doubting that PABH are an excellent live band even if the set ending with Hudson throwing up at the front of the stage and then rolling about in it is a little OTT even for the most seasoned gig goer.
By the time Biffy take to the stage there's no hope for getting back out again if you're near the front and when recent single "That Golden Rule" opens the set the Guildhall is a sea of flailing bodies with just a few lines of brave souls trapped against the barrier by the stage. This is a song that's judderingly heavy in a way that many so-called metal bands can't master after years of trying. A few songs later comes another sublime newie in "Bubbles" propelled by the twins' backing vocals while "Cloud Of Stink" is propelled by falsetto vocals and another thunderous riff. "God And Satan" meanwhile sees Neil playing his gorgeous Gretsch White Falcon while gently singing some of his simplest yet most profound lyrics yet, 'I savour hate as much as I crave for love because I'm just a twisted guy'. The highlights however are the oldest songs on display tonight. "Kill The Old, Torture Their Young" and "Hero Management" haven't been played much over the past few years but are truly incredible live, especially those in the know screaming 'Take me away!' along with Si at the end of the latter. Sadly there's far too few older songs in this set which features all but two tracks from "Puzzle". This is where the trepidation comes in...why exactly is a band supposedly promoting a new record playing pretty much the whole of their previous album every night? It's worrying as it does affect the quality of the show, the band is clearly not as energetic during Puzzle tracks like "A Whole Child Ago" and "Who's Got A Match?", both of which have been played to death since early 2007. It's worrying that the band appears to be getting stuck on "Puzzle" as if they're afraid of unleashing on an audience a bunch of older songs that the majority may not have bothered to hear. What they should be doing is trying to make the show the best it can possibly be and who cares if this means that half the crowd doesn't know half the songs being played?
The encore comes and goes with a sole old song, "Questions & Answers" which frankly seems a slightly bizarre choice to bring back because it was hardly their most popular song when it first came round. The final song is, perhaps unsurprisingly, "Mountains" but it doesn't end the evening on a high for the majority. It simply isn't a very good show closer especially considering this is a band that has songs like "Now The Action Is On Fire!", "57", " Bodies In Flight", "There's No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake" and the (already played on the night but suitably epic) more recent "Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies".
It's frustrating because I know how good this band can be live, sadly tonight they're just not as good as they can be.
Tellison - 6/10
Pulled Apart By Horses - 9/10
Biffy Clyro - 8/10
Biffy clyro played:
That Golden Rule
Living Is A Problem...
A Whole Child Ago
Love Has A Diameter
Kill The Old, Torture Their Young
Born On A Horse
Get Fucked Stud
Now I'm Everyone
God And Satan
Cloud Of Stink
Glitter And Trauma
Questions And Answers
As Dust Dances
For the record 2 nights later at Brighton Dome they played JDI in place of Q&A and also dropped KTO, TTY from the set...very disappointing decision with KTO but there ye go!