Reviews

Biffy Clyro @ The Commodore Ballroom – February 8th 2014

The evening’s opening act, Morning Parade, began promptly at half past 9. This was their first time in Vancouver (it was a chilly February evening, but at least it was dry out). The first song was introduced as Headlights and I rather liked it. Their sound has a nice mix of guitar-centric structure with an appreciation for the change in dynamics keyboards can bring to the equation. They are a 5-piece of 2 guitarists, bass, drums, and a keyboardist who also mans the MacBook. They are in the pop/rock vein for sure – not terribly unique in their brand of music, but they do a good job all around. Further, their songs are listenable, danceable, and songs like Headlines are definitely remixable for the club scene. The participation of the crowd waned the further away you got from the stage, but Morning Parade garnered good applause after every song, and I saw many a foot tapping or a head nodding along to the band’s nine-song, 40-minute set. I liked how dynamic the bass line was in Sharing Cigarettes. After about 7 songs, they seemed to properly get going, and it was Under the Stars that seemed to do it. It was introduced as their first ever single, which, quite frankly, sounded impressive and was accompanied by a light show and electronica beats. If that’s what they were doing in 2011, no wonder they got signed. All told, well done for them – they looked very comfortable performing and at the microphone. What surprised me was where they were from: Essex. I’ve heard a fair bit of Essex in my time, and if you’ve ever heard Alan Davies, Jessie J, Russell Tovey, Russell Brand talk, so have you. Talk about getting out – you’re well on your way.

And then we have ‘the Biffy’. The whistles really started to get loud at about quarter to 11, as did the Sister Sledge song We are family. Showtime!I knew this was the song biffy clyro comes on stage to, there was more of it than I would’ve thought (about ¾ of it) before the band were on the stage and at their instruments. The first song was Different People, the lead-off track on the CD currently being toured, Opposites, one of my personal favourite releases of 2013. biffy clyro make it visually easy for the newbies: they are a three-piece and perform shirtless, but tour as a four-piece (those extra guitars have to come from somewhere, and they come from the only person with clothing on his upper body). The song was fully rocked out, amped up, and perhaps a fraction faster. By contrast, a bearded Simon Neil’s vocals sounded almost identical to the studio version, not strained, even gentle at times. That all was contrasted with a furious rendition, and lyrically virtually unintelligible, of That Golden Rule which followed. I was amazed at the speed and hard rock edge of the guitars on this one, seriously would not have been out of place at a Pantera show. After the bridge when songs tend to wind down, Biffy Clyro naturally, provide a proper headbanger and jump-tastic finish right through to the end. For Who’s Got A Match the audience sings along full voice to the chorus.

Sounds like Balloons, one of my favourite songs from Opposites came next –the additional power and energy of a live performance made this song come alive, and it was kind of awesome, I’d say. Biblical was next and it was another one the audience really enjoyed – arms were raised high, swinging side-to-side for the anthemic whoa-oh-ohs. As ‘magical’ and ‘wonderful’ as any fan might have wished.

God & Satan was introduced next, with perhaps a Machiavellian flavour to it. The crowd loved it and sang along from the beginning until around the second verse or so when the instrumentation kicked things up a bit and the audience shifted focus. I didn’t know the next song, turns out it was Glitter and Trauma from the 2004 release Infinity Land and I loved the time changes in this one as well as the changes in dynamics. The screeching at the end, not so much, but that’s just my preference. Bubbles gave the audience a great opportunity to jump along to. In a way, this one epitomises the Biffy Clyro style and structure of music in my eyes (well, ears, actually), as they tend to not do ‘predictable’. I really enjoyed the syncopation into the end of the song and afterwards, the band received the loudest applause of the night.

Spanish Riddle – ah, the impossible time signature. I cannot figure it out and it’s just another reason to love it. I’m also pretty sure the audience would agree with me. The screeching in the repeated chorus, again, not my favourite, but there the audience would likely disagree.

The Rain – a gorgeous song, performed acoustically, which, in Vancouver terms means people talk, a lot, and loudly. There was a bit of rhythmic clapping from the fans near the front, but not enough to drown out the chatter all around me. This lack of respect always irks me, and I’m sure this is not the last time I’ll have to mention it. So what if it’s not a loud song with searing riffs? There’s still an artist you supposedly like up there, so why not extend him/them the courtesy of shutting up so you can get your money’s worth on a show.

Living is a Problem because Everything Dies – has a lovely piano keyboard intro and then spotlights were timed to the percussion and guitar staccato notes. A great way to give the audience more of a show. I couldn’t make out much of the lyrics but rhythmically and instrumentally, this was a truly great song. Fake ending – probably a full 5-second rest before the song picked up again but it was 57 instead – a very hard rock intro, quieter verses, full on, alt-rock chorus. To some degree, it has echoes of a Nirvana flavour. And the screams of appreciation afterwards lasted longer than the applause did.

Many of Horror has a special place in my heart. This was the first song I ever heard by Biffy Clyro, before I knew who they were or anything, but they already had me. As they had the audience; the first time the chorus came around, they sang it solo, and the band ‘helped out’ on the others. The arms were up were the non-verbal oh-oh-ohs. I couldn’t help getting the sense of an ending as the song ended, but the band weren’t done yet. Modern Magic Formula­ proved that – as energetic and with breakneck speed as if they hadn’t already been on stage for the better part of an hour. Singer, guitarist, chief songwriter Simon Neil told the audience that it had been 5 weeks since their last performance, one of the longest performance breaks they’ve had and offered a quasi-disclaimer: “Sorry if we’re shit. If not, you’re welcome.”

Time for Black Chandelier. This was completely in line with the rock-focus of the majority of the set. At this point, they must’ve not had a choice because Neil’s voice was starting to show the odd crack, but he made the most of consonants, over-enunciating a number of them over the course of the song.

For people who only know Black Chandelier, this show must have been a bit of a shock. If they’d bought Opposites, they would’ve gotten an inkling as to how more into the rock genre, proper hard rock, this band can get. I would estimate the first 1/3 to first ½ of the floor were there for the full Biffy Clyro experience. In volume alone, they beat the average 4-piece by a great many decibels and stylistically they provide a bit of a mind-opening experience because they can only be defined and pigeonholed so much.

Right, enough with the gushing. Woo Woo had a few cases of feedback in the early part of the song. Some great syncopation and tempo changes – a bit Tool-like, in a way. It’s short when compared to other songs this evening, but the audience was very appreciative. It was the same with The Captain – fist punches for the woohs and loud singing along for the chorus. Actually, there was a lot of singing along, full stop. Nice hard rock finish, triple forte on the power chords, and the band left the stage while the amps were still processing the reverb at just gone midnight.

The assembled didn’t have long to wait, Biffy Clyro were back within 2 minutes or so and the first song of the encore was Opposite. It was virtually identical to the album cut, and it was more than perfect. If you want devastating lyrics, you don’t have to look much further than this song. To bring an end to any potential sadness, Stingin’ Belle was next and I really miss the bagpipes for this one. One of the guitars did play the part so it wasn’t absent altogether. However, during the parts that Simon Neil isn’t singing, I was blown away by how insane Ben Johnston’s drum part is for this song. He doesn’t generally have a low-key time of it, but for this one, the words tour de force definitely came to mind.

Before and after the final song, Mountain, Simon Neil extended his thanks to everyone for coming, very very very very very very much. He had said earlier that Vancouver was a special place for the band and that they always enjoyed their time here. It was only later that I figured out they had recorded Puzzle here in 2006. Despite any ironic dancing and the chatterboxes, I hope this was the kind of “welcome back” they were hoping for.

Sadly for the audience, after 20 songs, this hold-on-to-your-toques sonic barrage came to an end at just past quarter past midnight.

Setlist:
Different People
That Golden Rule
Who’s Got a Match?
Sounds Like Balloons
Biblical
God & Satan
Glitter and Trauma
Bubbles
Spanish Radio
The Rain
Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies
57
Many of Horror
Modern Magic Formula
Black Chandelier

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