December 8th 2016
Biffy Clyro are a big band now. That much is obvious the minute you arrive at the O2. The queues of people snaking their way through the Millennium Dome go on FOREVER. People wait patiently, though. As fans of Biffy Clyro, they know an end goal can’t be reached in one quick leap – after all, seventeen years have elapsed since the Scottish trio released their first single and yet they’ve only just reached this high point. Still, it’s a shame the never-ending line means Brand New start and finish before a heap of fans get anywhere near the entrance.
Nonetheless, the fact that the brilliant Brand New are supporting Biffy Clyro is worth noting. At the beginning of 2007, Brand New were headlining the five thousand capacity Brixton Academy and Biffy Clyro were topping the bill at The Astoria, which held less than half that amount. A few years prior to that, Brand New themselves were filling The Astoria while Biffy were actually downstairs supporting bands in the basement of that same venue. Things have flip-flopped since then. Brand New’s incredible The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me may well have been the emo world’s OK Computer, but it never quite cracked the mainstream the way that Biffy Clyro have managed to.
In light of that more recent commercial success, then, it’s significant that tonight Simon Neil and the Johnston twins play so few of their early tracks. 57 may demonstrate how massively melodic the band were from day one, but Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave is actually as typical of Biffy’s pre-Puzzle output. It’s awkward, resolutely unpredictable and although it’s the most interesting song the band play during this set, it’s also solid evidence as to why the group would never have been predicted to eclipse the success of Brand New.
But eclipse the Long Islanders they have. And it’s singles like Wolves Of Winter and Bubbles that have enabled such progress. Those big-hitters, of which there are plenty more, are perfectly formed for arena consumption and it’s testament to the band that they do completely fill the cavernous venue. It’s only a shame that in such sterile surroundings the songs don’t fill our hearts. Simon Neil is too far away, the stage is too big and, yes, there’s always going to be something cathartic about singing along to Folding Stars and Mountains, but in a place this vast, everything (from the announcer’s call that Biffy will be on stage in five minutes to the fact that Many Of Horror is still their most well-known track) seems too well-planned, too perfectly prepared.
Have no doubt, that given time, Biffy will be able to subvert the expectations of an arena-filling band. That is surely their aim. For now, though, the Ayrshire outfit are finding their feet. Which is fine. No one knows better than Biffy fans that good things come to those who wait. That success doesn’t come overnight. That practice makes perfect. And that’s why, peppered amongst the zillions of fans crowded into the O2, you can still hear the old-school chanting, ‘Come on the ‘Biff…’ We know you can do it.
Photo by Danny Peart Photography.