Biffy Clyro At 3Arena – Review & Photos
With seventh album Ellipsis solidifying Biffy Clyro’s position as one of rock’s biggest and best acts, the band are in town for their third headline Irish show in three years. Having started out playing to a small but hugely loyal audience for their first couple of albums before breakthrough album Puzzle brought them to mainstream attention, the Ayreshire trio make for the unlikeliest of multi-platinum selling stars, given their use of weird time signatures, jerky metal riffs, and often idiosyncratic lyrical content. Kicking off the UK and Ireland leg of their arena tour, the band arrive onstage to the sounds of a children’s choir ringing out from the speakers, with frontman Simon Neil looking like a deranged mad scientist, draped in a flowing white lab shirt. The pulsating ‘Wolves Of Winter’ became an instant Biffy classic when released as their comeback earlier this year and serves as the perfect opener tonight, with everything great about the band encapsulated into one song. Crushingly heavy riffs juxtaposed with pop melodies and lyrics that veer from motivational to tongue-in-cheek “You are no exception, there are no re-runs”; “You can achieve anything, just remember no ‘I’ in team, but there’s two in brilliant”. The twitchy intro riffs of ‘Sounds Like Balloons’ give way to an explosive chorus, while 2013 single ‘Biblical’ sums up Biffy Clyro 2.0 with a selection of singalong hooks backed by wall of sound guitars. If new single ‘Howl’ sounds remarkably like Snow Patrol, it’s probably because it was co-written by frontman Gary Lightbody, and for all its punchy melodic quality it’s one of the few moments in a Biffy set list where you could imagine a slew of other bands singing it. A rare outing for debut album track ‘Justboy’ keeps the hardcore fans onside, while ‘Black Chandelier’, a mildly rocking ballad on record, sounds simply enormous on the big stage.
Even the older material not necessarily intended for such vast spaces sounds surprisingly at home, with the apocalyptic post-rock leanings of ‘9/15ths’ ringing out in every corner of the room. ‘Many Of Horror’ is the bonafide big rock ballad that every arena band should have in their armoury while ‘Friends and Enemies’ marks an experimental move into electro rock with triumphant results, providing some fresh sonic textures in a heavy riff dominated set. The 80’s synth rock of Opposites album track ‘Different People’ is a welcome surprise and fan-favourite acoustic ballad ‘Machines’ proves the band can be just as potent when stripped down to just one man and a guitar. The only misstep in a terrifically varied setlist tonight is opting for ‘Stingin’ Belle’ to close the show, an underwhelming choice considering the wealth of rousing anthems in their back catalogue.
With over a decade spent working their way up to shows of this size (as Simon Neil acknowledges tonight, reminiscing about memorable early shows in Whelan’s and The Ambassador), the band are well adjusted to the big stages at this point having headlined major festivals and arena tours since their 2010 mainstream crossover. But being elevated to rock’s high table means premier acts face the challenge to up the ante in terms of staging. While the 3Arena has been spoilt for incredible production setups over the past 18 months with The 1975’s hypnotic colour palette towers and U2’s stunning interactive walkway/videoscreen combo, tonight’s jaw dropping stage setup might just top them all with the band playing inside a frame within a frame within a frame, each one covered in vast video screens, surrounding a three-floor walkway. The singer makes full use of the setting, climbing between levels and performing his solo moments from the upper tier. With a constant barrage of strobe lights accompanying ear splitting metal riffs, certain moments almost feel like sensory overload (in the best possible way).
Like all truly great rock bands, Biffy possess a musical diversity that ranges from synth pop balladry (‘Rearrange’), acoustic laments (‘Medicine’), singalong stadium rock (‘The Captain’) to thumping heavy metal riffs (‘That Golden Rule’), which results in keeping things fresh for both band and audience. Having been an incendiary live band for well over a decade, the Scottish trio seem to get better with age and tonight’s show makes their last trip to the 3Arena in 2013 look like a dress rehearsal. With electro-pop, hip hop and r’n’b dominating mainstream music tastes, Biffy Clyro are now flying the flag for modern rock music, experimenting and improving with each album while refusing to become overly reliant on their now enviable back catalogue. Tonight the 3-piece prove that when rock music is done this good, no other musical genre comes close in a live setting.