GIGWATCH: Biffy Clyro @ O2 Arena (London)

Written by Kai Feltham

Hailing from Kilmarnock, Biffy Clyro have built a loyal following over the course of more than twenty years of music. With genre spanning releases ranging from their early days of progressive hardcore, stopping by math rock and travelling on to the anthemic arena-filling rock that they produce today – this Scottish trio are one of the real driving forces behind modern rock music. It is no wonder then that their recent tour has received such rave reviews, filling the biggest arenas across the country off the back of their seventh studio album Ellipsis.

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As Simon Neil, James Johnston, and Ben Johnston take to the stage on Thursday 8th December engulfed in shadows and a smokescreen, the excitement amongst a capacity audience at the O2 Arena in London is palpable. Launching into Wolves of Winter, the lead single from Ellipsis, the audience erupts in unison. The stop-start nature of the track showcases the very best of Biffy Clyro’s musical ability, mixing up chords and time signatures to a great, rock-centric effect, further exemplified with the exceptional and ever unpredictable intro to Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies.

Of the new tracks on offer at the O2, the exceptional highlight comes in the form of Ellipsis bonus track In The Name of the Wee Man. The stage awash with deep red light, Simon removes his long white robe and the traditional topless and tattoo-covered trio is complete on stage. The song is a mosh-inducing number, a real throwback to the early days of Biffy’s progressive hardcore, yet also incorporates the new pop-orientated elements that they have recently experimented with through harmonic vocals. As the front portion of the crowd begin to warm up, as does Simon, treating them with an old classic in the form of 57 from their 1995 debut album. The chorus itself is rounded off with the vocal prowess of drummer Ben Johnston, reinforcing the musical ability that the band possess to go along with their raw energy. Simon himself exudes raw energy, striding across the front of the stage and owning the arena himself, bursting into another old favourite Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave. I for one have never had the opportunity to see Biffy Clyro in a small venue, but the energy that they bring to their gigs makes one completely forget about the vast, vacuous size of arenas. In a room of 20,000 people, being amongst the jumping, dancing mob at the front of the crowd results in such a huge show feeling incredibly intimate, a rare talent amongst modern music.

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The stage set up itself is intriguing with three large LED squares spanning the entire size of the stage, emulating a telescope zooming in on the band at its epicentre. The squares add light and colour throughout the performance, projecting pink and green lasers for new single Re-Arrange, moody deep red shadows for 9/15ths and plunging the stage into dark shadows for Opposites album opener Different People.

In amongst the heavy riffs, rocky breakdowns and a crowd eager to mosh are the acoustic delights of Medicine and Machines. Both are performed almost entirely solo by Simon Neil, introducing himself to the London crowd as if he is talking individually to each and every one. Even though they are over twenty years and seven albums into a career that grows in success year on year, Biffy Clyro still come across as a band of brothers truly appreciative of the support given by their ever-loyal fans, exemplified by Simon’s conversation with the crowd. As Simon heads to the very front of the stage, highlighted by one sole spotlight he precedes to perform the beautiful Machines, taken from Puzzle. The only way of describing that moment is simply exceptional. With 20,000 fans singing along with Simon Neil in their very worst Scottish accents, the song is a raw, emotional highlight in amongst a night of modern heavy rock.

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A three song encore brings the raucous show to an end, rounding off with fan favourite Stingin’ Belle. Combining heavy guitar riffs and regimented beats with bagpipes, the song itself encapsulates Biffy Clyro as a band whilst bringing the gig to an almighty climax. After over two hours and a mammoth 27 song setlist, Biffy Clyro prove yet again that they are in amongst the very best live acts on the rock scene right now. With so much material in their back catalogue and a new, genre-hopping album it could have been easy for Biffy to have disappointed in their song choices, but they are far, far from it. As the show draws to a close, Simon, James and Ben come to the front of the stage and just as has been the case for the previous two hours, both band and audience are in unison. Both sets are beaming, grinning from ear to ear and, having sung along to every word and danced along to every beat, the O2 Arena is full of hoarse-voiced, sweat-drenched fans. Drawing the final cheers and applause from an enthralled crowd, it is clear that the final show of Biffy Clyro’s 2016 UK Tour has been a roaring success.

Looking around at the fans ambling back onto the tube at North Greenwich Station makes one thing very clear, that 20,000 music lovers are going home exceptionally happy. Somewhere also are 3 very happy Scotsmen, having once again proven their worth on the live rock scene.

Setlist:

  1. Wolves of Winter
  2. Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies
  3. Sounds Like Balloons
  4. Biblical
  5. Spanish Radio
  6. Howl
  7. In The Name of the Wee Man
  8. 57
  9. Bubbles
  10. Herex
  11. Black Chandelier
  12. Friends and Enemies
  13. That Golden Rule
  14. Folding Stars
  15. Re-Arrange
  16. Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave
  17. Medicine
  18. Different People
  19. Mountains
  20. On a Bang
  21. 9/15ths
  22. Animal Style
  23. Many of Horror
  24. Machines

ENCORE

  1. The Captain
  2. People
  3. Stingin’ Belle

Listen to Biffy Clyro’s single Wolves Of Winter here:

Credit: Biffy Clyro

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