They’ve headlined festivals all over the UK and beyond, and for 2022, Biffy Clyro were invited back for their second crack at headlining the Download Festival, five years after doing so for the first time.
Biffy have always relished in the idea that with their band, if you know then you know. Yes, they have a collection of arena and radio rock anthems that most people will know them for but when you dive a bit deeper or see them in person, there’s a whole other side to the Biff. On one hand, they’re probably the Download headliner that gets the most grief for being too radio ready and on the other, they’re one of the weirdest bands to ever play at the top of festival bills. Just like the last time they headlined Download in 2017, they proved that whilst many will only see them as one side of that coin, they are incredible at simultaneously being both.
The turnout for the cultural sons of Scotland was always going to be a topic of discussion and it definitely wasn’t helped by them closing the festival. For a band that has played the festival as many times as they have, the majority of the Download audience is still not convinced of their headline status. Despite that, if you were in the crowd that did put their faith in them, their show is so impossibly huge that it didn’t matter how many rows back the crowd went. Whether you’re in a field, arena or dive bar, when they’ve got songs as big as they do, it feels as big as Glastonbury.
Among the staples of their set, there’s a decent helping of new material from their 2020 and 2021 releases (A Celebration of Endings and The Myth of The Happily Ever After) as well as some returning hits. Black Chandelier, Biblical and The Captain all prove just how many arena-sized tracks are sat in the Biffy back catalogue. Chuck those in alongside the must-haves like Mountains, That Golden Rule and Wolves of Winter etc. etc. and even if this spot at Download is always met with mixed reactions from afar, it’s a no-brainer that if they’re playing in the UK, they’re playing to the biggest audiences possible.
Whilst 2009s Only Revolutions will always be the basis for any of their sets, the two newest albums dominate the majority of the runtime combining for a total of ten tracks. After 2016s Ellipsis produced the most lukewarm reception to any Biffy record from fans, the last two have done a great job to put them back on the right path. They’re always going to have huge singles dotted around an album but their double album in spirit has brought the unpredictable Biffy back. The real pinnacles of both records come one after another in A Hunger in Your Haunt and Tiny Indoor Fireworks and it’ll be hard to see them budging from their festival sets for a long time.
A hardcore Biffy fan will be quick to remind you that though they are an arena band, they use that as a trojan horse to sneak some insanity into your daily casual listening. Playing both of the last two albums’ closing tracks is like an alarm clock that wakes you up to that idea. Cop Syrup and Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep do not belong on stages like this and that’s why Biffy Clyro are so good at what they do because they blend the two worlds with this rattling eclecticism that only they can pull off. After Simon Neil screams and shivers at you during Wolves of Winter to make it sound ferocious, he then serenades Download with a performance of Space backed by violinists; though being the other slowed-down and emotional song in the set that isn’t Machines is an incredibly tough act to follow.
The Download audience just hasn’t seemed to connect with the idea of Biffy Clyro being a main stage headliner and the truth is, they don’t fit in alongside the others but in that sense, they don’t truly fit in any box. Whether you’re standing shoulder to shoulder with 100 or 100,000 people, their pedigree as a live band is undisputable and regardless of the turnout, they put on a show like it’s the last one they’ll ever play. 9 / 10.
PS: To write a song as good as 57 on your debut record and not play it to crowds this big is not cool Biffy, not cool at all.
Review by Kyle Dimond. Photos by Jemma Dodd.