Gig review: Biffy Clyro at First Direct Arena, Leeds

Biffy Clyro at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: David Hodgson
Biffy Clyro at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: David Hodgson
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The temperature in Leeds had plummeted, the first major frost of the year meaning the throngs of people outside the First Direct Arena came dressed for the weather. Fortunately they’re made of sterner stuff on the west coast of Scotland and to choral overtures, Biffy Clyro took to the stage, twins James and Ben Johnston bare chested, singer Simon Neil in a cloak.

Given the wide and varied demographic of audience that the Kilmarnock band have acquired over their seven album career (a few gained when X Factor did a karaoke version of Many of Horror), there were enough Yorkshire mum’s in the audience to be concerned that they would catch their death.

They needn’t have been worried. Over the next two hours, Biffy Clyro’s heavy guitar riff laden set whipped most of the standing portion of the audience into a sweaty, hulking frenzy, using one of the largest stage sets the arena has witnessed as a backdrop.

Having stood perfectly stationary whilst the choral music played out, the Spinal Tap-esque intro gave way, rather fittingly, to opener Wolves of Winter, acting as a clear statement of intent from the band. Going through the first four songs at the speed of light but with the sound of thunder, Neil began to disrobe during Spanish Radio, further descending into the dishevelled heavy metal look during Bubbles, long hair becoming matted to his face.

A face that together with the rest of the band’s, was constantly broadcast across the arena as part of the impressive visual accompaniment. Biffy Clyro will always benefit from such a capacious set as being a three-piece (the two additional touring musicians constrained to small side stages, dressed in black), the arena stage was a large area to cover whilst remaining within shouting distance of a microphone.

There is a school of thought that some of the mid-tempo Biffy tunes tend to sound at the very least well produced, if not overly glossy, on record and still a little plodding when done live. Having gone from a pulsating version of Golden Rule, Folding Stars, new single Re-arranged followed by Wave didn’t have the same level of impact mid-set.

Biffy Clyro at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: David Hodgson

Biffy Clyro at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: David Hodgson

The set was at its strongest when the band either slow right down or speed back up. Medicine and then a much heavier than recorded version of Mountains regaining any ground lost. From this point the set climbed to an exceptionally high peak with superb versions of Many of Horror, Carnival, The Captain before concluding with a huge rendition of Stingin’ Belle that sent the crowd back out into the sharp cold but, safe to say, pretty much oblivious to it.

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