Sunday, 9 May 2010

Biffy Clyro - Live Review (Hammersmith Apollo 6th May)

To say Machines and Many of Horror have reached new heights as songs live would be an understatement.  The worry, for anyone that's loved Biffy for years, is that these songs, truly wonderful as they are, are now a statement of intent for our beloved Biff.

The last record is my least favourite of their five albums but live the songs have a different edge to them.  That ferocity of the early albums comes out in the tracks through the sheer voracity of the playing.  Cloud of Stink in particular worked far better live than it does on record, fitting in well to a high octane finish balanced only by Machines.

Discussion after the gig centred on two things.  The inclusion of Convex/Concave in the last sequence of songs and The Captain as the closer.  For me Convex/Concave is a great great song.  Quiet/loud.  If you've been reading my ramblings for a while you'll know I'm a sucker for that shit.  I'll take that over a power ballad any day of the week.  It also shows the fans that Biffy get that their past is important, although I still yearn to here Joy Discovery Invention live.  The Captain is a great song, fun and full of classic Biffy idiosyncrasy but it's just a shade off of where it could have been as a song for me.  Simply put it's not the last song I'd have wanted to hear on the night.

The Idlewild comparions are gonna carry on unless Biffy move back to the slightly left of centre position the first four albums achieved.  The newer songs, good as they are, don't sound as powerful as the rest of the set and it showed live.  The best track on Only Revolutions (Bubbles) however, is the perfect marriage of the two styles.  The new, modern Biffy and then the relentless sound of their past.  It sucks you in and then hits you in the gut, hard.  Honestly when the chorus kicked in my spine tingled properly for the first time at the gig.  And then it closes with that thundering guitar, utterly joyous, I was beaming from ear to ear.

What raised this gig above the one we went to late last year was the inclusion of Bodies in Flight and the tracks from Puzzle just soaring.  Biffy have played these tunes a lot and it shows.  Bodies in Flight is one of the first Biffy songs I heard, what with it being the opening track on album two, The Vertigo of Bliss.  I love it dearly.  It's everything I adore about Biffy.  Slightly mental, a melding of different styles, with this dark, dangerous heart.  The songs from Puzzle live are just about as uplifting as it gets.  Machines tugs at your heart, Saturday Superhouse is a wonderful anti-anthem and 9/15ths is proper Biffy craziness.

God and Satan worked as well as anything all night, like some giant communal sing a long and JustBoy from album one sounded like it was a new track.  They even had time to throw in an oddity from the Vertigo of Bliss, hidden track There's No Such Thing as a Jaggy Snake.

Mountains is on Only Revolutions but it always surprises me it's there when I listen to the album.  It still feels out of place to me.  18 months older than the other songs, it just doesn't quite sit.  Live though it's Biffy taking you out of yourself.  Just raw and powerful.  Screaming along with Simon, I think I briefly believed I was the Mountain and the Sea.  Wonderful and emotional, there's a lot of reasons why five grown men stood in a line, arms around each other bellowing along.

Where Biffy go next is anyone's guess.  They proved with Puzzle that there's room for a British rock band that has it's own identity.  Simon Neil is a star in the making.  I worry we see them take the Idlewild route and water down their sound losing what made them special in the first place and Only Revolutions has hinted at that path.  However I'm under no illusions here, Biffy are a better band than Idlewild ever were.  They have the talent to keep making special music and special albums.  They clearly crave some kind of mass appeal but I think they can have that without compromising their sound.

Live, they are special though.  A force of nature.  And mine.  So so mine.