Thursday, 8 December 2016

1,014 BIFFY CLYRO, Cardiff Motorpoint Arena, Tuesday 6th December 2016

This cough just won’t fuck off… so another attempt to try to rid myself of it via the power of “live” rock’n’roll is called for! And in the recent past they’ve not come much more powerful than Scottish late bloomers Biffy Clyro, a band who skirted around the periphery of my musical consciousness whilst on their way up, but only really asserted themselves for me when their collision of borderline goth/ metallic noise and odd indie time signatures was aligned with some blazingly massive anthemic hooks and stadium friendly rock, said reinvention coinciding with their breakthrough to arena headliner status. And people say I like to follow little bands and lose interest when they get bigger… well, Biffy Clyro followed the opposite route for me! Having said that, their new album “Ellipsis” is taking time to grow on me, my initial investigations concluding that it’s a step back into a harsher, more metallic sound, albeit with a few skyscraping choruses thrown in for good measure. Rachel was still keen to continue her Biff band crush, so tix were duly booked. Maybe it’ll make more sense “live”; it often transpires that way…

Joining us on the trip was increasing gig buddy Stuart and his son Rory, so we picked them up early then faced a frustrating queue (not the first of the night) to get out of Swindon via the Wroughton rat run. That completed, the drive down was pretty plain sailing, even the black hole of Newport proving relatively navigable, and we parked up in the open air car park near the Motorpoint for ¼ to 8. We then faced another annoying queue to get in – tonight’s show was subject to a “ticketless” entry, requiring photo IDs and bank cards. A promising idea, maybe, if it eliminates the touts, but clearly teething problems are still prevalent judging by a 15 minute wait for entry, causing us to completely miss openers Brand New. Not that that was a big deal, but still, I just don’t like queueing, particularly for administrative cock-ups like this…

Nonetheless, we made our way relatively near the front, stage right, after bumping into Troy for a quick chat. Even moments before the band were due on, there was still plenty of comfort space around our spot. “Sold Out” at the Motorpoint doesn’t mean “cram them in like sardines”, like at the Bristol O2 Academy! A squirt of dry ice, then the lights dimmed and a haunting and discordant piano and choral backing track kick-started, and Biffy Clyro joined us onto their elaborate stepped and layered stage set up, all stark white lighting and interconnecting metallic slopes, and a far cry from the “Opposites” Goblin King lair. Then straight into the somewhat overblown opener “Wolves Of Winter” and the staccato riffery of “Living Is A Problem…”, all power and noise. A bit too much noise, in fact… Just prior to their appearance, we’d had a conversation about loudest gigs, and this seemed suddenly prophetic, as the Bunsen Honeydew lab-coated Simon Neil and his bare chested cohorts seemed to be on a mission to fill this large arena with huge swathes of sound, avalanches of almost palpable noise. And for me, at least, the sound seemed distorted and over-layered, and the early songs, the fine and groovy newie “Howl” notwithstanding, suffered in consequence.

A flippant “Bubbles” however marked a sea change in the sound, the taut and racy verse structure ceding to the terrace chant hook, reverberating around the venue. “Black Chandelier”, slightly leaden on record, took flight with another massive hook, “Golden Rule” was dark, dynamic and dramatic as The Biff really hit their stride, and a huge yet brooding “Folding Stars” was for me possibly the highlight of the night, the hook both desolate and uplifting. Excellent lighting and stage projection onto 3 big rear-stage screens complemented but gladly never distracted or detracted from this performance upturn. A bit of light and shade in the set too, as Simon ascended to the top of the stage set-up (“this is the best view”!) for an acoustic “Medicine” before the slow-burn intro to an excellent, jagged “Different People”. A couple of more titanic, almost operatic singalongs in “Mountains” and “Many Of Horror” bumped us, incredibly, up to the 2 hour mark – where did that time go? The Biff finally closed out an uneven yet still dramatic and entertaining set with Simon delivering a solo “Machines”, the “take the pieces and build them skywards” line again a metaphor for their band. A 3 song encore ending in “Stinging Belle” saw a rapturous reception and profuse thanks from the band, as they hurled anything not bolted down into the front rows for souvenirs (including set-lists – bah!).

Easy out of the car park but a pretty crappy drive home, thanks to diversions off the M4 and through Newport, saw a 1am arrival home. Another fine night out from the Mighty Biff – not always at their best tonight, maybe, but still a potent, powerful and remarkably quick performance. As ever… ‘Mon The Biff!

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