Biffy Clyro

support Dry The River
author HES date 01/11/13 venue Den Grå Hal, Copenhagen, DEN

It's Friday night in Copenhagen and I'm getting pumped up to go see Biffy Clyro. Actually I've been psyched all week. I've seen Biffy twice before - once at Roskilde Festival and later at Northside Festival as well. Although I love the formats of festival gigs, I'm looking forward to see them in a more intimate setting.

The show is going down on Christiania in their massive venue "Den Grå Hal" - an old equestrian exercise hall from when this place was a military base. Dodging the sellers of Pusherstreet and the locals going about their business, we arrive at the venue and realise they only take cash. We only have cash for one beer and hope it'll last us through the night.

All photos by Kenny Swan

Dry the River

Warm up act Dry The River goes on stage at 8 sharp. They have cancelled their own shows to support Biffy Clyro through their European Tour. Their setup is simple; 2 guitars, one bass, drums and one violin. Their sound is beautiful, anthemic but introvert and cryptic. They have a small support group in the form of 5 men in the front of the crowd but the rest of the audience seems disengaged at best. The only conversation Peter Liddle has with his audience is one I've heard before and hate with a vengeance; the excuse. "We're tired. We've been on tour. We haven't slept. We don't know where we are". Now all of these things may very well be true and I am not one to glorify the living conditions of touring musicians - but contrary to popular belief, a show is for the audience not the other way around. When people pay good money to come see you play - you smile and play your music, that's your job. And if you're in bad shape - at least don't bother your audience with this. Call your mother for that.

So I guess the question is if there was something to excuse; and the answer is a "yes and no". The band is obviously horribly misbooked. Biffy Clyro is probably one of the more extroverted bands of the scene - they want to party and mosh and take off their shirts. Dry The River is everything but. - Not even the violin really takes to the front stage but supports the rhythm section. Apart from that, the technical difficulties that will carry on throughout the night are working against them. - At times, the electric guitar even gave out that "cling clang" sound as if it wasn't plugged in. The only thing that makes a bit up for all of this is the slightly goosebumbing "No Rest" that ends off a barely 30 minutes long set that the band cannot possibly be proud of.


Biffy Clyro

Alright but let's get past that and get to the main act. Biffy Clyro wastes no time as they enter the stage in their half-naked fashion with the guitar-driven "Different People" and all worries created by our previous experiences vanish as clouds before a summer sun.

They tend to our rocking-out needs with 3 bangers; "That Golden Rule", "Who's Got A Match" and "Sounds Like Balloons" only to then take it down for the stickily sweet "Biblical". The follow-up is a surprise for us all in the shape of "Accident Without Emergency" that the band proclaims to have never played live before. This is obvious but in the best way possible as all sense of tour-fatigue there might be in guitarist/lead vocalist Simon Neil disappears as he concentrates severely on getting it right - and he does, to the crowd's great pleasure.

Tonight we're not only in the company of 3 craftsmen, but 3 men on a mission. Neil is hammering away on his guitar and it seems every stroke is overtly intentional. The sweat is dripping from his long hair, into his beard and down his naked, tattooed chest like a rainfall but he hardly seems to notice. Bassist James Johnston is a bit more quiet tonight than I've seen him before - but not disassociated from his part of the crowd. His twin brother on the drums seem to be hammering away with the enthusiasm of a child with his favourite toy. The band has brought a supporting guitarist and a guy on keys that do an excellent job of being completely out of sight and mind. The lights tonight are also tailored to perfection with tempo-based strobes and cones of white light embracing Neil from the back making him a rocking-out silhouette in a sea of light. One thing that is not in order however, is the instrument changes. As I counted, Simon Neil is handed the wrong guitar 3 times(!!!) throughout the set. The audience is unaffected but I spot the look of annoyance underneath his sweaty mane.

"Bubbles" hits the crowd like a ton of bricks and reverberates back to Biffy Clyro like a wall of voices, followed up by the charming "Spanish Radio" before we hit another emotional valley in the form of "God and Satan" with people screaming along to the opening line "I talk to God as much as I talk to Satan 'cause I want to hear both sides". Afterwards the lights go down and the pitch black stable building is now only lit up by a single cone of light and the majestic silhouette of Simon Neil and his acoustic guitar. He serenades us with the rare "All The Way Down: Prologue Chapter 1" and the girl who has been waving a sign with that song title all night in spite of several warnings from the stagehands almost has a panic attack out of pure relief and joy. Neil follows up with a haunting rendition of "Folding Stars". Neil’s voice is fragile, rusty but full of masculinity as he reminds me of why I think Biffy has gained its following: The earnest way of singing love songs that girls wish had been written for them and boys wish they could articulate without sounding cheesy.

The Johnstons return to stage declaring "relaxing time over" with "Living Is a Problem Because Everyone Dies". Their friendly banter with the audience continues as they tell stories of playing in Cristiania 10 years ago. Still as young at heart, they blow us away with old-timer "57" and the audience delivers their gratitude by humming along its "dududu"-refrain. By the time we're done, the area before the stage is overrun by a dozen of tributing half-naked men as the band goes in for the kill with "Many of Honor (When We Collide)" - another fan favourite. We get a taste of "Modern Magic Formula" and the borderline cheesy single "Black Chandelier" before the set ends in "The Captain" and the lyrics "somebody help me sing" do not fall for deaf ears as the crowd supports the nautical "oh oh oh" that follows. For the encore we are served "Opposite", a personal favourite in "Stingin' Bell" and lastly the super iconic "Mountains" that the leaving audience hum on their way out into the dark November night.

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