Thursday, 24 March 2011

This Ain't A Miracle - Biffy Clyro for The Teenage Cancer Trust, Royal Albert Hall, 23/03/2011


Yesterday, around 5:30pm after a day of gorgeous weather, and a delightful burrito lunch with Reema and Caitlin (It's a restaurant called Tortilla - try it sometime.It's very good value and you get huge portions for your money .And yeah, the two girls are alright as well), I think it finally hit me that in a few short hours, I would be confronted with the presence of Scotlands finest, Biffy Clyro. I saw them play at V back in 2009 and was very impressed with what I saw, so was excited about seeing them play a show in their own right, especially considering the size of their back catalogue thus far.Of course, the night gained even more poignancy as it was in aid of a charity very close to my heart, The Teenage Cancer Trust, and in a venue positively reeking of history and music, having been the place I witnessed one the best shows of my life almost a year to the day ago (Arctic Monkeys). I mean really, it's the Royal Albert Hall, what more could you want?

So I shall get back on track.We arrived at the venue a tad early, but found the doors to be open already, so we weren't exactly going to wait in the cold.This is where we learnt a valuable life lesson- the early bird does indeed catch the worm. Or rather, the overexcited Biffy fans do meet a very nice usher who swaps their rather averagely priced and positioned seats for three front row box seats. We were led to our new positions, feeling pretty impressed with ourselves, and more than ready for the show.

After some embarrassingly awful stage banter from George Lamb, we were introduced to the first band, The XCerts. Not too bad, and obviously schooled in the art of the dynamic, contrasting pretty boring parts of song with all out rock choruses. This made for a pretty unsettling experience, but it wasn't really as bad as I'm making them sound, for they certainly had some rather brilliant riffs in place.The vocal mix could have been louder (as is normally the case with the bottom line acts), but I did liven up a tad by the time they hit their last song.

 A brief interval ensued, in which I had to move about 20 million times for the welsh guy sitting next to me who appeared to have pretty poor bladder control.Still, he seemed like a nice bloke, so I'll forgive him, and by the time Frightened Rabbit turned up I didn't really care anyway. I've always been intrigued to see them live so was ready to embrace my chance. Stumbling on stage, coyly informing the crowd that "we're shitting ourselves", Scott Hutchinson began to sing with such conviction that I was forced to believe he had some Scottish magic tucked away in his rather glorious beard. Ripping through stripped down versions of some of their finest songs, barely pausing for breath, they struck me almost like an older and more sincere Mumford & Sons, more streetwise and down to earth. As the band left the stage, leaving Scott to complete two songs solo, I realised that this was a band who were criminally underrated.

However, we all know that nobody paid to hear an evening of acoustic music, lovely as it was. As chants of Mon The Biff began to swell, a procession of stamping soldiers lit up the big screen, the beat forewarning us that we were about to meet The Captain. Arriving with a crash, bang and a resounding "WOO!", Ben, James and Simon, resplendent in matching grey trousers and naked torso's, began to rip the Royal Albert Hall a new one.The only word I think describes it is relentless: howling vocals, stabbing guitars and even knee sliding as Simon bent over backwards (quite literally) to entertain the hungry crowd. Circle pits reached their peak during the frankly frightening back to back double act of That Golden Rule and Living Is A Problem..., causing horns to be thrust aloft and self respecting adults to hang off the balcony, drinking in the atmosphere.But of course, the sensitivity of the evening had to play some influence at some point, and as Simon was handed an acoustic guitar and the twins left the stage, leaving him to mutter "this is for the teenage cancer trust", we were treated to a stunning rendition of Folding Stars, the very first outing of the song in over five years, since the band "retired" it on the grounds of it being too emotional for them to play live. The poignancy flowing through his voice as he sang about his mothers death to cancer was not lost on the audience; some who sang every word and others who simply watched with respect.Topping this off with a heart achingly mournful Machines, we were shown the true range of Biffy Clyro's talent and emotion, and were left completely unprepared when it was almost instantaneously followed up with a rather ferocious take on Shock Shock. From that point until the end, the rock was well and truly alive, climaxing in a triumphant Many of Horror, by way of many albums classics, (my favourite being Know Your Quarry)before the final curtain call encore of Cloud Of Stink, Hope For An Angel and finally, Mountains.

The verdict? Biffy are at the top of their game. With their first festival headline appearance looming, it is no surprise that curators nationwide are fighting to book them, when they play with such heart and versatility.To be able to jump between old and new songs, album tracks and singles, acoustic and electric without losing the crowd shows true skill, and in a venue such as the Royal Albert Hall may well prove to be a monumental moment for them as a band.

Setlist

The Captain
Booooom, Blast And Ruin
Who's Got A Match?
Saturday Superhouse

Hero Management
God & Satan
That Golden Rule
Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies
Born On A Horse
Folding Stars
Machines
Shock Shock
Bubbles
Get Fucked Stud
Know Your Quarry
Toy, Toys, Toys, Choke, Toys, Toys, Toys

Many Of Horror

Cloud Of Stink
Hope For An Angel
Mountains

Image courtesy of the Teenage Cancer Trust

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