At 8pm on Tuesday, myself and a friend stood amongst a crowd of shoulder-high teenage girls, waiting for Biffy Clyro to take the stage. My pal and I were ruminating on which song Biffy would come out to. ‘Stingin’ Belle’ would have been my weapon of choice, whilst my pal was leaning towards ‘Live At Wembley’ opener, ‘The Captain’. Both solid choices.
As it transpired, Biffy took to the stage half an hour later and kicked off with ‘Different People’, the first song from their new album Opposites. As an album opener, it’s a bit of a slow burner, but the crowd were excited at the prospect of seeing Biffy in the flesh, right there in front of them, tattoos gleaming in the stage lights.
Biffy’s slow start seemed to be a (much better) continuation of the support band, Little Comets. Newcastle arena was a home-town gig for the Comet boys, who reminisced about coming to shows at the arena as kids. Their songs were jangly, and their vocals, huge, but they’re not what I wanted from a Biffy Clyro support act.
Basically, my few petty criticisms of the night all centre around a lack of ‘heaviness’. I wanted to hear songs that would open up the pit, get people moving, but unfortunately great songs like ‘Saturday Superhouse’ were dropped in favour of newer material. (However, ‘Living Is A Problem’, predictably, set the whole place on fire.)
As is to be expected, Simon Neil et al spent a great deal of time focusing on the new record (this was the first night of the UK promo tour, after all). Whenever a band plays an abundance of new songs, the audience has to indulge them, but with a double album of new songs to choose from, Biffy clearly had trouble deciding which ones should be left on the rehearsal room floor. ‘Victory Over The Sun’, ‘Sounds Like Balloons’ and ‘Modern Magic Formula’ were all welcome, but during the slower songs, such as ‘Different People’ and ‘Spanish Radio’, I couldn’t help but feel my attention lag.
Really, this is all minor stuff. The band were as tight as a nun’s purse and James and Ben’s harmonies were nothing short of fucking incredible. Simon Neil is a true rockstar, coiling himself up as though about to literally launch into his songs, slashing at his guitar and channelling Freddy Mercury in his camp ‘aaahs’ and ‘ooohhs’.
This sense of fun pervaded the gig and when older songs such as ‘Golden Rule’, ‘Glitter And Trauma’, ‘Justboy’ and ‘There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake’, kicked off, the place went batshit.
It did feel at times like the set-list had been cobbled together without any real idea of how the songs would flow in to each other. There was a great slow section of ‘God And Satan’ ‘Many Of Horror’ and ‘Machines’, but it wasn’t until the final few songs; ‘Who’s Got A Match’, ‘The Captain’, ‘Picture A Knife Fight’, ‘Mountains’ and (finally) ‘Stingin’ Belle’, that it felt like Biffy were on a role.
Ultimately, watching one of your favourite bands play for two hours is never a bad thing, especially when they’re this tight and the set designs are this gorgeous, but (and it’s the smallest of buts) the set-list could take some pruning, and will probably be pared down as the tour continues. For now, there’s three boys from Ayrshire who’ve just made the album of their careers and want to blow your fucking faces sideways with it. I suggest you let them.