After a long time away from playing their usual touring circuit, Biffy Clyro returned to the UK’s arenas and were met with open arms. With two albums worth of material yet to be played inside these rooms, these dates and venues were like a home away from home for the cultural sons of Scotland. With one of the country’s best live bands in support, this was an arrow that was destined for the bullseye.
Whilst Architects may have lost some favour with certain parts of their fanbase, opening for Biffy Clyro was a chance for them to put their evolved sound into practice. Though they have played some of these rooms off of their own back, large parts of the Biffy Clyro audience would likely be hearing some of, if not all of their tracks in the set for the first time. There was always going to be certain parts of the audience that were never going to engage with the heaviness of their sound, however, for the most part, Architects’ credibility as a live band and ability to write huge choruses did the job. For members of the audience that may have heard their name on the radio, they proved they have plenty more where that came from. Despite playing a set which featured just one track not featured on their last two records, that didn’t mean they couldn’t still pack a punch with tracks like Animals and A New Moral Low Ground.
Whilst it wasn’t a perfect representation of what an Architects show is like, they made their band appealing to this audience without sacrificing what makes them the band that they are. Sam Carter’s evolution into a frontman, donning shiny-heeled boots, is just one aspect of why seeing Architects in this spot felt natural. They maximised the opportunity without selling people on false promises.
Overall score: 8/10
Never to be outdone, Biffy Clyro has always been a band that knows how to do big and bombastic. With a 24-song set, this was their welcome back to home turf and with such a long performance, they rattled through all of the different sides to their rubix cube-like sound. Whilst it may look easy to identify at first, a few twists and turns later and you’re wondering how you got to this part from the one just gone.
The big star of the show with Biffy is always going to be their huge rock songs, it’s what makes them able to play the biggest venues in the UK with ease and trojan horse the other elements of their sound into the mix. Only Revolutions’ formidable four made up of Many of Horror, Bubbles, Mountains and The Captain are as big as big arena rock songs get. Whilst they will always have their setlist staples, Black Chandelier and Wolves of Winter are included in that bunch, they are like aces up the sleeve in the way you’re always going to get them and they’re always going to be home runs. The most impressive part of their radio smashes are the newer additions to this club, particularly Tiny Indoor Fireworks which is them at their euphoric best, feeling vital and full of life.
Side two of their peculiar three-sided coin is the Biffy ballad. On this particular tour, there are quite a few selections from this catalogue, characterised by minimal lighting and Simon taking the spotlight whilst flanked by accompanying violinists. The two older selections come from the heart-wrenching Machines and thought-provoking God & Satan with both conjuring a palpable atmosphere. Whilst A Celebration of Endings’ Space is a nice moment that could border on a bit too Disney for some, Re-Arrange is like maple syrup in song form. Not that this doesn’t also provoke a movie-like impromptu part of crowd interaction as they provide the claps in the chorus.
And finally, we come to the third piece of the puzzle, pun intended, with the weird and obtuse side to their massive arena production. This is mostly characterised by the inclusion of a track from their most difficult album and an out-of-left-field album closer in Glitter & Trauma and Cop Syrup. Both are hard-to-pin-down tracks that can go from beautiful melodies into Simon Neil squawking like a parrot and then back again but twice as fast. They’re quite incredible to witness in a room as big as the one like the Cardiff International Arena, moments that don’t make sense but somehow fit because of the three men on stage performing them.
With such a long set, a few older cuts would have gone down a treat but their absence is not surprising given they have two albums of material that most people in attendance wouldn’t have witnessed live yet. Along with Glitter & Trauma, 57 is the only pre-Puzzle selection which considering, it goes down like it’s their calling card, you wouldn’t think it’s off the 2002 debut. There’s a lot less talking compared to previous Biffy tours, in favour of packing the setlist with different takes and that’s hard to complain about when they have so many massive tracks and are such consistent performers. No one is going to swap out Living Is A Problem… over some on-stage banter.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Biffy Clyro are very good at playing to arenas full of their fans. Whilst this was a long set with very few breaks in between songs, it put the various sides of Biffy at the forefront. Sure, there are still some good visuals to take in and all of the razzmatazz that comes with the big show, but this really feels like Biffy in their lane, going full speed ahead with no time to hold the door for you on their way out.
Overall score: 8/10
Photos captured by Matt Higgs at the O2 Arena show. Check out the gallery below to see more!