Biffy Clyro

support Blood Command
author TL date 21/02/13 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Mostly I find it a little childish and distasteful when rock fans flash an inferiority complex on behalf of their favourite genre, but I must admit, there's something rather satisfying about arriving to Vega's bigger concert venue, knowing that few tickets are left for the Biffy Clyro show if any, and also knowing that Danish pop/TV personality Xander Linnet is playing next door, 'only' setting up in Vega's smaller, secondary rooms. In this relation, I'm a little "fuck national pride, I come from the people of rock and roll and I enjoy the upper hand we have for once". Entering Vega with pint in hand however, I see that the upstairs balconies have not been opened today, which makes it a little less of a triumph, yet seeing how crowded the main floor is even before the support band is still really encouraging.

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Blood Command

In all honesty, I've been having a hard time prior to the show, accepting that The Xcerts would be supporting Biffy Clyro for a large portion of this tour - but not tonight - being a massive fan of theirs as well. Still, Blood Command never seemed like a poor compensation, given the rumbling underground hype that has surrounded this band and their music of late. I've managed to see them once already though, and I think their problems as a live band manifest even more visibly tonight than they did back when the band supported Comeback Kid. The band is halfway a post-hardcore band, but instead of going all out with energy and abrasive song-structures, they dive into stretches of cold, Scandinavian chorus rock. Or, understood the other way around, they sound like what The Sounds would if they had loads of angry hardcore fits in their music.

Things work well for them when the instrumental side of the band is in focus, because the guys on instruments make use of their time in the spotlight, crafting moments with good dynamics that gets the crowd interested, and brandishing their various tools vividly trying to incite things. Their efforts just clash however, with the awkward stage performance of lead singer Silje Tombre, who sings most verses hanging her head down towards the floor like she was in a post-punk band, and most choruses staring off into the distance with a stiff upper lip and stiffer, restrained hardcore moves. Her vocals occasionally show why she's so special, when the upper range of her cleans slide higher up into her banshee-like screams, but her moves and between-song remarks makes it feel like she's anything but comfortable playing with this band on stage in front of a large audience.

Consequently, the moments which focus on her - which are plentiful, her being the lead singer after all - often feel like ones that let the air out of the performance. And while I realise it sounds like blasphemy to tell this to a punk band, the most accurate problem here is that Tombre does not do enough to 'sell' the energy of the band's music to their audience, especially not compared to her bandmates, who give it their best beside her. It coats Blood Command's otherwise unique stylistical blend with an awkwardness that I think will sadly deter many from going home and checking out more of their stuff.

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Biffy Clyro

About Biffy, it speaks of the deserved spread of their name, even in such remote parts as Denmark, that there are groupings in the filled up Vega chanting "MON THE BIFF!" as soon as the changeover music is turned off and the lights are dimmed. As the three Scotsmen appear on stage and get the show started, two things quickly become clear. This set is going to lean heavily (and not surprisingly) on material from the new double album "Opposites" and this fact is going to be (surprisingly) okay with the crowd, who seem appropriately elated when that record's opener "Opposites" also opens the set. Wide smiles turn to a craze however - in an escalation that's going to become a theme every time material from previous album "Only Revolutions" is played - when "That Golden Rule" follows, prompting dudes of all ages to test both shouting voices and air guitar skills.

Following with "Sounds Like Balloons", "Black Chandelier" and "Modern Magic Formula" from the new album, Biffy Clyro themselves look to be in mid-season form. The playing and the sound is top notch, and both rhythm, buzzing guitar chords and singing comes out loudly and aggresively, powering the show with the proper rock edge. The many samples that have snuck into Biffy's music over recent years are delivered with keys and guitar by Oceansize's Richard Ingram, who performs from hidden behind an amp stack, while regular touring guitarist Mike Vennart plays with enthusiasm from beside Simon Neil and the Johnston brothers James and Ben, all three of whom are bare-chested as is the band's custom.

As for the set, Biffy Clyro are the kind of band by now, that have so many good songs to choose from that no two fans will probably ever have the same experience of a 'greatest hits' concert, and so for me as well, I think songs like "Modern Magic Formula", "Spanish Radio" and "Skylight" could have been neglected from "Opposites" - either in favour of other cuts like "A Girl And His Cat" or "Accident Without Emergency" or in form of more old material (forgive me for wanting to hear "Justboy" and "All The Way Down" at every Biffy show). That being said, things are sequenced nicely with the crowd being shown around the anthemic, the fast-paced and the balladic corners of the band's catalogue with good variety and sense of momentum. Tracks from "Puzzle" and "Only Revolutions", like "Living Is A Problem", "Bubbles", "God & Satan" and later "Burn The Witch", "Machines", "Many Of Horror" and "The Captain", get rapturous response from at least the front half of the crowd, with people jumping and swaying and calling out the lyrics at the very top of already weary lungs.

The songs from "Opposites" however, do shine as well, justifying their large format with especially "Victory Over The Sun" and "Pocket" coming across well here in the live setting. Moreover, when it's time for a break after "The Captain", Simon Neil makes a bit of a highlight of "Skylight", by using it as a sensitive, acoustic opening to the encore. The sheer power that then hits us when "Stingin' Belle" is the next choice is so immense however, that it has me reeling and suddenly feeling like it might be the most powerful song from "Opposites" all together.

Overall, while Biffy seem pleased with the response and get more active on stage over the course of the set, you do have the distinct feeling that this sort of show - amazingly - is just another day on the job for them. While this is often said as a detriment to other band's sets however, here one must just leave - after the predictable ending romp of "Mountains" - recognising how rare it is to be this unassailably good in a show where you act like it's just - you know - Thursday in Copenhagen, no big deal. And that is how people leave, judging from the banter in the cloakroom lines, with voices all chattering to point out exactly what they thought made this a bloody good evening. Biffy Clyro it seems, are in the Champions League of modern rock bands, and I think their only problem moving forward will be that people get so used to them being good, that they might not notice just how special such consistency and integrity really is.

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Set list:

  • 1. Different People
  • 2. That Golden Rule
  • 3. Sounds Like Balloons
  • 4. Black Chandelier
  • 5. Modern Magic Formula
  • 6. God & Satan
  • 7. Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies
  • 8. Booooom, Blast & Ruin
  • 9. Biblical
  • 10. Victory Over The Sun
  • 11. Bubbles
  • 12. Spanish Radio
  • 13. Pocket
  • 14. There's No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake
  • 15. Machines
  • 16. Opposite
  • 17. Burn The Witch
  • 18. The Joke's On us
  • 19. Many Of Horror
  • 20. The Captain
  • -- Encore --
  • 21. Skylight
  • 22. Stinging Belle
  • 23. Mountains

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